Criminal Justice Overhaul
America, the land of the free, is home to 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. Our population makes up only 5% of the Earth’s total. These numbers are deeply tied to a national legacy of racism. Black Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of white Americans. Black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans, even though drug use rates remain consistent across races. Black Americans constitute two-thirds of the incarcerated population, with many living in solitary confinement and inhumane conditions while facing excessive sentencing. And for all the people we cage, 76% of prisoners are rearrested every five years. The failures of our criminal justice system destroy our communities.. It’s time we overhaul it.
Why We Need It
By allowing corporations to profit off the suffering of incarcerated people through the private prison industry, we’re enabling inhumane conditions to develop in our prisons, resulting in human rights violations, torture, and sexual assault. From lack of medical care to solitary confinement, we allow the private prison-industrial complex to seek profits over morals by advocating for longer sentences for people convicted of crimes. Government has turned a blind eye to these practices, all while allowing corporations, police departments, and cities to rake in billions in fines from our most vulnerable communities. With cash bail hurting lower-income communities and a plea bargaining system built to convict rather than find the truth, our criminal justice system hurts the vulnerable. We must take a stand and say no more.
What We Are Fighting For
We must (1) end profiteering in our criminal justice system by completely banning for-profit prisons and detention centers, and all other forms of profiteering in our criminal justice system; (2) end cash bail; (3) transform the way we police our communities (see Restructuring American Policing); (4) allow everyone the right to counsel; (5) end mass incarceration and excessive sentencing (i.e., abolish death penalty; end mandatory sentencing minimums); (6) end the war on drugs (i.e., legalize marijuana and expunging past convictions) and stop criminalizing addiction by having health providers be first responders; (7) treat children like children (under 18) in the system and provide effective justice diversion programs, which hold youth accountable and give them tools to survive and thrive; (8) reform our prison system to make jails and prisons more humane; (9) guarantee a Prisoners Bill of Rights and ensure a just transition post-release; (10) end cycles of violence and provide support to survivors of crime; (11) prohibit profiling by law enforcement and intelligence agencies based on race, religion or national origin, by enacting the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (H.R. 1498) [End Racial Profiling Act of 2019 (H.R. 4339)]; (12) promote educational, community restorative justice and employment programs that have been shown to improve community safety while creating opportunities for at-risk youth and adults, by re-allocating a portion of the funds annually given to state and local law enforcement agencies, and by tying federal grants to state adoption of statutes that redirect funds currently used for school police offers to restorative justice programs, trauma-informed counselors and student health centers; (13) provide incentives for states to offer after-school opportunities for young people, including safe places to be at night, as well as centers for sports, dance, art and cultural activities; (14) decriminalize drugs and treat drug addiction as a mental health and medical issue rather than a criminal issue; and (15) put an end to solitary confinement, which is a form of unconstitutional torture.
What It Will Do
By overhauling the criminal justice system, we’ll bring humanity back to law enforcement. When prisons are forced to focus on rehabilitation instead of profit, prisoners will be treated as people. Recognizing crime’s roots in deeper structural problems, we’ll save by not overspending in policing and prisons, and instead investing in solving joblessness, income inequality, lack of education, and untreated substance abuse. When people have jobs and money to buy food, sleep under a roof, can access free healthcare and a free education, and pay for basic expenses, crime will drop. Reforms that seek truth and humanity over arrests and convictions will level the playing field and empower communities to flourish.