Money and Race

The Sentencing Project reports, “Today, The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration. There are 2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails—a 500% increase over the last 40 years.” 

Nearly all of us want to live in a society that is just and fair.  But our criminal justice system today isn’t just or fair.  It needs reform.  What are the problems?  What are the solutions?  

The main problem in our criminal justice system is the corrupting influence of money and racism.  Money and race impact guilt or innocence.  Money and race impact bail, sentencing and if someone receives good treatment in jail.  

A system like this degrades a society.  It sends the message that money– not justice– will save you.  A system like this pits races against each other which makes the society unhappy, unstable, weak.  And a system like this if not reformed will destroy a society.  

Today, in the United States there are millions of Americans in our criminal justice system who believe in justice for all.  This includes police officers, public defenders, judges and others who entered this field to pursue their passion for justice, who care about fairness and understand the system must change.  I’m not speculating.  I have come to know and become friends with judges, police officers and criminal justice reformers. I know them well enough to know what’s in their heart and this is why I have hope that the change we need will come.  

Two Ways to Reform Now

I support H.R. 1280, which builds trust within our criminal justice system.  It  rewards positive reforms at the policing level.  Innocent and well-meaning citizens and police officers are protected from unfounded allegations.  Incremental criminal justice improvements happen at the street level.  

Our criminal justice system has life-changing and life-ending flaws.  People of color, especially black men, are killed by police officers at higher rates than the general population.  Minority defendants are also more likely to be convicted and receive jail time than caucasian defendants.  These flaws influence the decisions of police, public defenders, the public, judges and juries.  As we get more comfortable with discussing these flaws and the solutions we will live better.  

End Private Prisons

An important, concrete and immediate way to clean up our system and remove the corrupting influence of money is to end private prisons.  Using public money for private prisons doesn’t work.  It deforms the system by creating incentives to keep people in prison.  It is like giving tax dollars to fossil fuel companies to keep ruining the planet:  it is criminal.  

From this, what follows is the truth that an unjust system diminishes all of us.  Likewise, correcting this system will lift us all.  As Martin Luther King said: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  

Let’s reform this system.  It’s time.