Criminal Justice Reform

Our Criminal Justice system is in desperate need of reform. We are incarcerating far too many people, for too long and the system neither deters crime, nor rehabilitates those convicted. Further people of color are disproportionately represented among those incarcerated. We have lost our way, and the use of private prisons incentivizes incarceration and only adds to the problems with our criminal justice system.

Crime in America

Crime Rates are near the lowest they have been in almost twenty five years. There has been a thirty five percent reduction in violent crimes from 1980 to 2012 and a forty seven (47) percent reduction in crimes against property in the same time period.[1] At the 1 same time the crime rate was dropping, our prison population was increasing by 340%! In 2013, our country incarcerated more than 2.2 million people which is more than the top thirty five European countries combined. The cost of this mass incarceration is roughly $80 billion dollars per year.[2]

 

I support the following to reform this broken system:

Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Sentences

I support the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences, which take discretion away from judges and prosecutors and result in the warehousing of individuals without weighing specific circumstances. Mandatory minimum sentences are a large part of the reason so many are incarcerated. With rehabilitation as the goal for incarceration we must access how to rehabilitate an individual and mandatory minimums prevent us from factoring in the individual.

Eliminate or Reduce the use of Private Prisons

Private prisons encourage the incarceration, because less inmates mean less profit. There should not be a financial incentive to incarcerate more Americans. For-profit institutions tend to be more violent and to provide fewer opportunities to prisoners for education and rehabilitative treatment.[3] It only makes sense that if education and training reduce recidivism rates, it is a threat to the private prison’s bottom line. Society’s best interest is taking a back seat to a business’ quest for profit. My goal is to rehabilitate, treat and train those who are in custody, so they can succeed when released.

Expand the Use of Drug Courts

We all know someone who has battled the disease of addiction. Drug overdoses are now the biggest killer of people under fifty years old.[4] Drug courts focus on treatment and intense supervision. There are drug courts throughout the country and they have been found to lower recidivism and cost. Expanding drug courts will increase the likelihood of success for addicts who commit crimes and at the same time reduce the prison population.

Decriminalize Marijuana

Far too many people are serving prison sentences for possessing small amount of marijuana. Even if they avoid prison, they must contend with a criminal record, loss of student loans and expensive fines. Eight states and the District of Columbia now have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use. 19 states have bills pending that would legalize adult-use marijuana: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia.[6]