THE ONE WITH CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
America, land of freedom. That's what we're really most proud of...
Yet, while the U.S. is only about 5% of the world's population - we're somehow incarcerating almost 25% of the world's prison population. That's mass incarceration.
That's BIG GOVT, and with for profit prisons, it's also big business ($80B annually).
There are constitutional violations both in, and outside the prisons and a failed drug war that lay at the root of much of it. As a result, across the nation citizens sit in jail for non-violent drug offenses or even worse, for no crime other than being broke, unable to pay fines that turn into late fees and bench warrants.
Congress must begin to measure, fund and generally regard a successful prison almost entirely on one metric:
Reduction in recidivism.
We need to create federal legislation outlining an inmate Bill of Rights. Some things we can start with:
- Excessive cash bail is an 8th Amendment violation and must be reigned in.
- Solitary Confinement is ineffective, inhumane and also, an 8th Amendment Violation
- Paying inmates to work for pennies an hour (literally) is a 13th Amendment violation
- Medical care and substance abuse rehabilitation are woefully incorporated
- Apprentice/job hire programs
- Ban the box - employers that need background checks, do them. Reintegrated members of society deserve to make it to a second interview before they are cast out. Helping them find employment/education is paramount to reducing recidivism.
My mother, now retired, was a 27 year veteran of Riverside County Probation. I've seen first hand, our police are asked to be everything to everyone at all times in a high stress environment. They work tirelessly to keep our streets safe - but when cuts come to every support structure around them, they too must do more, with less. Without proper mental health, drug treatment, public school systems and community support to lean on, our law enforcement officials are left to deal with our problems face to face, on the street.
Similarly, I saw how our plea bargain system permanently damages the records of millions. We must continue to have honest conversations about the militarization of our local law enforcement, the failure of the war on drugs and civil asset forfeiture...
We Have A Lot To Do.