Start Here

A Road Map to Reducing Mass Incarceration

A bold agenda for criminal justice reform based on equal parts pragmatism and idealism, from the visionary director of the Center for Court Innovation, a leader of the reform movement

“Berman writes like all the rest of us wish we did.” —Candice McCoy, John Jay College

Everyone knows that the United States leads the world in incarceration, and that our political process is gridlocked. But what can be done right now to reduce the number of people sent to jail and prison? This essential book offers a concrete road map for both professionals and general readers who want to move from analysis to action. In this forward-looking, next-generation criminal justice reform book, Greg Berman and Julian Adler of the Center for Court Innovation highlight the key lessons from successful programs across the country—engaging the public in preventing crime, treating all defendants with dignity and respect, and linking people to effective community-based interventions rather than locking them up. Along the way, they tell a series of gripping stories, highlighting gang members who have gotten their lives back on track, judges who are transforming their courtrooms, and reformers around the country who are rethinking what justice looks like.

While Start Here offers no silver bullets, it does put forth a suite of proven reforms—from alternatives to bail to diversion programs for mentally ill defendants—that will improve the lives of thousands of people right now. Start Here is a must-read for everyone who wants to start dismantling mass incarceration without waiting for a revolution or permission. Proceeds from the book will support the Center for Court Innovation’s reform efforts.


Start Here is that rare book that cuts through the rhetorical fog about the broken criminal justice system in the United States to illuminate a realistic path forward. It is bold. It is also grounded in reality. Books like Start Here don’t come around nearly enough. Read it, perhaps read it a second time, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work.”
—Herb Sturz, founding director, Vera Institute of Justice
“An accessible, concise, and cogent map for criminal justice transformation.”
—Tracey Meares, professor, Yale Law School
“A road map on how to improve criminal justice systems and engage in urgently needed reforms around the country.”
—Melissa Mark-Viverito, former speaker, New York City Council
“The end of mass incarceration can’t come soon enough. This well-written book may help get us there—a practical guide for how we might begin to forge a new approach to criminal justice that is both more humane and more effective.”
—Vincent Schiraldi, senior research scientist, Columbia University, and former commissioner of probation for the City of New York
“What shines about this book is the humanity of the task ahead. Start Here will leave readers inspired with hope and imbued with confidence for the reform agenda confronting us.”
—Todd Clear, professor, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University
“A must-read for anyone who is ready to stop talking and start doing something about the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States. The ideas in this book have the power to change—and even transform—long-entrenched practices and institutions. If you want to learn how to create a better justice system, start here!”
—Judge Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of New York

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