Today, we say to the prison-industrial-complex that we are going to bring about real criminal justice reform. We are going to end the international embarrassment of having more people in jail than any other country on earth. Instead of spending $80 billion a year on jails and incarceration, we are going to invest in jobs and education for our young people.
- End for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom by: by banning for-profit prisons and detention centers, ending cash bail, and making prison and jail communications, re-entry, diversion and treatment programs fee-free.
- Ensure due process and right to counsel by vastly increasing funding for public defenders and creating a federal formula to ensure populations have a minimum number of public defenders to meet their needs.
- Cut the national prison population in half and end mass incarceration by abolishing the death penalty, three strikes laws, and mandatory minimum sentences, as well as expanding the use of alternatives to detention.
- Transform the way we police communities by end the War on Drugs by legalizing marijuna and expunging past convictions, treating children who interact with the justice system as children, reversing the criminalization of addiction, and ending the reliance on police forces to handle mental health emergencies, homelessness, maintenance violations, and other low-level situations.
- Reform our decrepit prison system, guarantee a “Prisoners Bill of Rights,” and ensure a just transition for incarcerated individuals upon their release.
- Reverse the criminalization of communities, end cycles of violence, provide support to survivors of crime, and invest in our communities.
- Ensure law enforcement accountability and robust oversight, including banning the use of facial recognition software for policing.
For most of our history as a country, the United States incarcerated people at about the same rates as other western democracies do today. In the early 1970s we had the same low crime rate as today, but we now have an incarceration rate five times higher. Indeed, America is now the world’s leading jailer. We lock up more than 2 million people in America, which is more of our own people than any country on Earth. And that does not include another 5 million people who are under the supervision of the correctional system.
Hundreds of thousands of incarcerated people in America have not been convicted of a crime and are solely in jail because they can’t afford their bail. We are criminalizing poverty.
Due to the historical legacy of institutional racism in this country, mass incarceration disproportionately falls on the shoulders of black and brown people in America. In fact, black Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of white Americans, and even though people use drugs like marijuana at roughly the same rates across all races, black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans. These disparities pervade every aspect of the criminal justice system. Black Americans, and especially young black men, are more likely to be stopped by the police, subjected to excessive force, arrested, and jailed than whites.
We must finally make the deep and structural investments to rebuild the communities that mass incarceration continues to decimate.
We must move away from an overly punitive approach to public safety and start focusing on how to safeguard our communities, prevent the conditions that lead to arrests, and rehabilitate people who have made mistakes.
Source: Bernie Sanders