Reforming our Broken Criminal Justice System
It’s not a very well-kept secret that our current criminal justice system is not working. It directly targets people based on socioeconomic status, race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin. As a matter of fact, although we only have less than 5% of the world’s population, we house more than 25% of all incarcerated citizens in the world. Marginalized and disadvantaged populations currently make up a majority of our prison population. These groups are susceptible to increased recidivism because the current system is purely punitive, rather than rehabilitation focused. We can begin immediately by decriminalizing minor drug offenses such as possession of small amounts of marijuana. We need to stop the revolving door that has become our prison system, but the issue does not begin or end there.
As a former firefighter, I have first-hand experience working with the great men and women of our law enforcement community. The work they do is undeniably some of the most difficult, stressful, and rewarding. They deserve our unending support. A significant majority are very hard working, fair, and committed to the law as it is written, not in how it should be interpreted. We need to take this from a majority to an unanimity. Through training, more stringent hiring practices, community input, and the use of technology we can make sure our great police officers stay great, and are recognized as such.
The community is last step toward reforming our criminal justice system. Many who are released from the prison system are unprepared, and ill equipped to re-enter the community. We need to work with local municipalities, faith-based initiatives, and community groups to provide assistance with transitioning from the prison system back to the community. These individuals should have an opportunity to receive vocational training, education, and support they require to again become functional contributing members of our society. This reduces recidivism and decreases our prison population in the long term.
Reforming our system is not only the humane thing to do. It makes sense financially to the taxpayer. If we aren’t emboldening the current system to bleed our pockets dry, we can reapportion these funds to community solutions and rehabilitation. Ultimately, the cost savings we will see at the state level will put the money back into the pockets of the taxpayer. Reforming our system is the fiscally responsible thing to do.