I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for nearly twenty-five years. Through first hand experience, I know how broken our criminal justice system currently is. It needs a major overhaul, including bail reform and the elimination of for-profit prisons. We must end mass incarceration and focus on rehabilitation, not punishment. We must treat addiction as an illness, not a crime. And we must continue to affirm that Black Lives Matter by ending the widespread racial biases in our justice system and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.
America’s bail system is disastrous and immoral. If you’re accused of a crime, your bail amount shouldn’t be based on your ability to pay, which is a rule of our current system. Instead, it must be based on whether you’re a danger to our community, or a risk of fleeing.
Currently, America’s bail system forces people with very little money to stay in jail, sometimes for months or more at a time. Until these Americans go to trial and plea — often to crimes they didn’t commit — they can’t leave jail. If someone is not a threat to the community, or at risk of fleeing, it’s ridiculous to have them sit in jail for months waiting to see a judge, putting them at risk of losing their job, their home, or their family, simply because they cannot afford to post bail.
Ending Private Prisons For Profit
It’s time for America to eliminate private prisons for profit, once and for all. Private prisons make money from prisoners, and treat them inhumanely. They cut corners everywhere from safety, to food — even foregoing blankets — just to increase their profits. The Obama administration already eliminated private prisons, but the Trump administration brought them back. America needs to end private prisons for profit, once and for all.
Police need to stop shooting first and asking questions later. It’s long past time we train our police officers to de-escalate more, and use weapons less. Police have a very tough job, regularly dealing with people who are mentally ill, intoxicated, or angry. However, de-escalation training is less than 10% of a police officer’s curriculum, while weapons training is more than 50%. This needs to be reversed.
Reporting Sexual Assault
When a woman is sexually assaulted, it’s very courageous and important for her to report that crime. Our current reporting system is broken and demeaning, hurts women victims, and discourages reporting of crimes.
Police need to test the DNA of rape assailants so women can get the justice they deserve. Currently, a simple lack of funding causes police to put rape test kits back into a refrigerator and left untested. This means rapists are left free on our streets after assaulting women, instead of being put behind bars where they belong.
A small amount of money can make a huge difference in giving justice to victims of sexual assault. We need to do better for the women in our country.
In California, cannabis is now legalized thanks to Proposition 64. Unfortunately, in most states cannabis is still illegal, and the U.S. Attorney General is threatening to penalize states whose citizens have already voted to legalize cannabis. We must once and for all nationally legalize cannabis. It’s time to expunge the criminal records of men and women convicted of cannabis possession. It’s finally time to end the prohibition on cannabis.
Ending Mandatory Minimums for Drug Offenses
It’s time to end the racist policy of mandatory minimums for drug offenses, most especially for crack cocaine. Nonviolent drug offenders shouldn’t be treated like violent criminals. Mandatory minimums are largely based on racial profiling. They destroy families, are extraordinarily out of touch with society, and are ridiculously unfair to minorities and people of color. We need to eliminate mandatory minimums for all drug offenses, and bring punishments for nonviolent drug crimes in line with other nonviolent crimes.
Funding for Mentally Ill & Addiction
It’s time to stop punishing sick people. Instead of sending Americans addicted to drugs and alcohol to treatment centers for their substance abuse problems, we throw them into jails. This cruelty needs to end.
Unlike most civilized nations, America treats drug problems as a crime, and not a sickness. We must turn our criminal justice system into a kinder, more compassionate place for people with drug or alcohol problems. The same is true for the mentally ill, who are continually warehoused into our prisons and left without a path to get the treatment they need and deserve. We need treatment centers — not jails — for our fellow citizens who are mentally ill, and provide them help for their problems.
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