“We need to evaluate who our justice system serves and the promises that it makes. Mass incarceration is our single biggest domestic policy disaster since segregation, both fiscally and ethically. We, as a community, have an obligation to confront these issues squarely by punishing crime fairly and giving people the tools they need to stay out once released.”
REPEALING MANDATORY MINIMUMS
Mandatory minimums have exacerbated the current mass incarceration crisis by forcing judges to give nonviolent offenders harsher sentences. 77% of all Americans agree that mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders should be eliminated. We must trust our judges to make fair and proportionate sentencing decisions on a case by case basis.
REINSTATE FEDERAL PAROLE
It is critical that we recognize keeping people locked up does not make us safer. Rather than wasting taxpayer money, we should reinstate federal parole and give deserving prisoners a chance to become productive members of society. Combined with the repeal of mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenders, federal parole would allow us to free our fellow Americans serving unjust sentences and save taxpayers billions of dollars per year.
ABOLISH THE PRIVATE PRISON INDUSTRY
No one in a free society should profit from the imprisonment of other people. If the government can’t accommodate the number of people it’s locking up, then it’s locking up too many people. Between 2000 and 2010, the private federal prison population more than doubled, and the industry collects more than $3 billion in annual revenue. Corporations have an obligation to create revenue for their shareholders, which leads to the perverse incentive of increasing prison populations for increased profits. If we are serious about freedom, then we need to shut down this abomination of an industry.
REEVALUATE THE SCHEDULING OF DRUGS UNDER THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT
Drugs are currently scheduled in a way that defies both medical knowledge and common sense. The federal government denies millions of citizens access to legitimate medical treatments, and inhibits research to find more cures to some of our worst diseases. Our government’s knowledge of science and medicine needs to catch up with that of its citizens.
BEGIN TO DEMILITARIZE OUR POLICE FORCES
Allowing civilian police forces to obtain military-style weapons and equipment does not make us safer, and hurts the relationship between communities and law enforcement. These weapons of destruction, from armored vehicles to assault rifles, only increase the odds that tense situations end in bloodshed. We need to stop the flow of tools for fighting wars and give police the tools for fighting everyday crime.
No country should jail its citizens for being mentally ill. Callous and short-sighted budget cuts have shuttered the majority of America's mental health clinics over the course of two decades. In the absence of crucial support, many former patients revert to erratic behavior and swiftly find their way into the justice system. There are currently ten times as many individuals with mental illnesses in prison as there are in public mental health clinics. Turning our backs on the most vulnerable members of our community isn't only wrong, it's costly. Functioning clinics decrease recidivism rates, dramatically reduce the financial burden on taxpayers, and make communities safer. There is no reason to discard the only preventative measure proven to work.
icon courtesy of Edward Boatman