One of the most pressing issues in the first district is our broken criminal justice system. For decades, misguided policies and the failed war on drugs have created and expanded a system that is racist, classist, expensive, and ineffective. I have seen firsthand how we criminalize and imprison some of our brightest minds for illegitimate reasons. We are dehumanizing people, breaking up families, and exacerbating the immense racial and socioeconomic disparities that already exist in this country. The system needs a complete overhaul.
We need to:
End cash bail. Our current system treats those who are too poor to afford bail as guilty before even entering a courtroom. Hundreds of thousands sit in jail simply because they can not afford bail. The use of cash bail is discriminatory toward the poor. We must look to other strategies to ensure appearance at trial.
Implement restorative justice practices in all prisons and juvenile detention centers. Restorative justice recognizes what real justice for victims looks like, what real safety looks like, and is more effective at reducing future crime than the current system of punishment we have.
Provide rehabilitative services in all prisons and juvenile detention centers. The current recidivism rate is far too high. We need to make prisons more rehabilitation focused, so that after people serve their sentences, they can return to the community and participate in a meaningful way.
Ban the box. We need to end employment discrimination for the formerly incarcerated by banning the box on job applications asking about criminal record. A job and stable income is one of the best ways to reduce crime.
Restore voting rights for the incarcerated. It is not just to disenfranchise the most vulnerable among us. We must extend voting rights to the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated to become a more democratic society.
Abolish the death penalty and isolation as a means of punishment. The government should not have the right to put people to death, especially when so many are wrongfully convicted. We also need to end the practice of isolating prisoners. It is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
Legalize marijuana, commute existing marijuana sentences, automatically expunge past marijuana convictions, and create a private-public partnership to stir minority representation in the marijuana industry. The criminalization of marijuana has harmed communities of color across the country. It is imperative that we commute sentences and automatically expunge past convictions, so that individuals impacted by the war on drugs are not discriminated against after the action they were incarcerated for is no longer illegal. We must also take steps to ensure that those impacted by the war on drugs can take part in the economic gains that will come from the marijuana industry.
Treat drug-use as a public health epidemic not a criminal one. The ongoing opioid crisis has been rightfully treated as a public health issue, not a criminal one. It is important to extend this thinking to other drug users and addicts. We need to offer them the assistance they need for rehabilitation and/or safer substance use.
Hold corporate executives accountable for misconduct. As poor people sit in jail for theft of minuscule sums of money, multi-millionaire and billionaire corporate executives that caused the financial crisis and defrauded the public receive millions in bonuses every year. We must hold them accountable for their crimes.