– TODAY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HAS 5 PERCENT OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION, AND 25 PERCENT OF THE WORLD’S PRISONERS! THAT MEANS THAT here are today more than 2 million people incarcerated in the U.S., and millions more under probation or parole. We confine a greater percentage of our population than any other country.
– Almost 2 million children have a parent in prison, AND PROBABLY 1 of every 3 of those children will follow in their parents’ footsteps.
– The differences in arrest and incarceration rates between white Americans and people of color are inexplicable. The likelihood of a Black male spending time behind bars is 1 in 4, WHILE THAT OF White males IS ONLY 1 in 23.
– If you are poor, you are more likely to go to prison. 80% of people accused of crimes cannot afford a lawyer.
– Studies show a third of inmates committed their offenses while under the influence of drugs. Yet, only 1 in 10 is likely to receive any meaningful substance abuse treatment while incarcerated, despite the fact that it costs taxpayers more to incarcerate a person than to provide that treatment, even in a residential setting.
– While young people of color make up roughly ⅓ of our juvenile population, they constitute almost 60% of youths in juvenile detention facilities.
– In some states, a single mom convicted of writing a bad check or a teenager convicted for a drug sale may never be able to vote.
The list of alarming criminal justice facts could go on for pages, but the message is clear: OUR COUNTRY HAS TURNED THE POLITICAL SLOGAN OF “GETTING TOUGH ON CRIME” INTO A NATIONAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICY. THUS decades of ill-advised laws and practices – even well-intentioned ones – have produced a system that is outdated, discriminatory and, ALL too often, ineffective. The amount of tax money wasted is in the tens of billions and, even worse, the lives ruined number in the millions.
While some progress has been made in recent years, primarily at the state level, there is much to be done to remove the inequities and counter-productive consequences of a system based more on “tough on crime” politics than upon common sense and making punishments actually “fit the crime”.
Our America will mobilize grass-roots support across the country to demand change. While there are many specific reforms that are needed, the basics are clear:
– We have too many “crimes,” especially in the area of drug offenses. We have for too long treated substance abuse and addiction as crimes to be punished rather than illnesses to be treated. Harm reduction, not criminalization, should be the focus of the law.
– Under our constitutional system, U.S. Congress need not “federalize” crimes that are appropriately under state jurisdiction. That was never the plan, but as THE noted state attorney general NAME THE AG(?) once lamented, politicians love to outlaw crime.
– Mandatory minimum sentences and other arbitrary mandates that preclude judges from exercising common sense discretion must be eliminated. Every day, judges issue sentences with which they openly and correctly disagree – all because politicians tied their hands.
– While individuals should absolutely be held accountable for their actions, the damage done by a conviction or sentence shouldn’t be greater than the damage from the crime itself. The purpose of a justice system should be to REDUCE CRIME AND protect lives, not ruin them.
–We will attempt to educate the public about the doctrine of Civil Asset Forfeiture, sometimes referred to as Policing for Profit. This act of seizing property and keeping it without filing any criminal charges against them often because of the free money to be gained by law enforcement. We hope to see this practice end.