Our prisons are full of innocent people - people who are institutionalized as a tragic side effect of historical policies that punish the poor. We have more people in prisons than any other country (2.4 million), even though we know that imprisoning people does not make us safer. We must change course and reorient our criminal justice system around healing offenders and protecting the public. We must take a larger view of what leads people to crime; most often, it's poverty, untreated drug addiction, and/or mental health issues.
In Congress, I will fight for alternatives to incarcerating the most vulnerable Americans.
Rights that are not explicitly stripped away in sentencing should be automatically restored upon leaving prison. Once you've served your time, you should not be perpetually burdened with obstacles in finding a decent job. When people are shut out of employment, they are invited warmly to return to crime. We must "Ban the Box" which requires people to identify themselves as felons on employment forms and restore voting rights to returning citizens.
Drug addicts are not criminals; they are ill. Putting them in jail rarely addresses the underlying issues. There are evidence-based practices that we can use to help people get off drugs for good.
We must rid this nation of prison profiteers. So long as there is an economic incentive to put people away, people will be unjustly incarcerated.
For millions of innocent Americans, the sight of the police can raise their heart rate. This is due to decades of racial profiling, unnecessary arrests, and excessive use of force. We must change police policy to encourage diversity in hiring and propagate community engagement.
Today, going to prison is like taking a master class on how to be a better criminal. This is supported by data that shows extremely high rates of recidivism. To change this, we must treat underlying mental health and drug issues and provide viable channels for education and healing.