Criminal Justice Reform

“I am appalled that the United States ranks number one in the world for having the highest percentage of people imprisoned. I am also appalled that the federal government permits police to seize a person’s assets without first convicting them of a crime, and then keep most of the assets seized. This is literally highway robbery. As President, I will use my Constitutional authority to end federal civil asset forfeiture prior to conviction, and pardon persons convicted of non-violent victimless crimes. I will also work with Congress to end the failed War on Drugs and other victimless crime laws.”

We cannot claim to be “the land of the free” when we lead the world in incarcerations. We have 5% of the world’s population, but house 20% of its prisoners. Between those incarcerated, and those under parole or probation, 7 million people in the US are under some kind of control by the correction industry. That’s one out of fifty Americans!

One of the biggest factors that led to a quadrupling of our prison population since 1980 is the racist and destructive War on Drugs.

Although states incarcerate the majority of people in prison in the US, major reforms can start at the federal level, and it is the president’s job to lead the way. Fewer than 5% of federal prisoners’ most serious convictions were violent offenses. Meanwhile, drug offenses are the primary conviction for half of the federal prison population. Immigration and weapons offenses account for another 25 percent.

In particular, mandatory minimums have taken discretion out of the hands of judges and instead forced mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters to be put in jail for 10, 20 years, even for life for a supposed crime that has no victim.

All we have to do is take a step back to the Prohibition era to see the parallels. Despite realizing how poorly alcohol prohibition went, we have replaced it with a carbon copy. Drug kingpins have replaced mob bosses and drug dens have replaced speakeasies.

When was the last time you heard of a liquor store owner . . . wandering up and down the halls of a high school, trying to sell gin to high school students?

When was the last time you ever heard of an alcoholic breaking into houses to support a vodka habit?

And when was the last time you heard of two liquor store owners having a shootout . . . over who gets the best corner?

What we have is not a drug problem. What we have is a prohibition problem.

There should be no law to prevent you from owning an object: whether it’s a gun to protect yourself or drugs for whatever reason you wish.

People of color bear the brunt of drug prohibition. While Black Americans are less than 14% of the population, they represent 40% of federal drug offenders and total federal prison inmates. This is in spite of the fact that white Americans use drugs at the same rate.

This was largely due to federal mandatory minimum sentences passed in the 1980s coupled with federal expansion into local police matters resulting from the escalation of the War on Drugs. Federal subsidies rewarded police departments according to the number of drug arrests they made, which resulted in the incarceration of millions of people of color for nonviolent drug offenses.

As your president I will federally decriminalize all drugs and encourage states to do the same. I will work with Congress to make history of the failed and unjust War on Drugs. 

If there is no victim, there is no crime. I will pardon anyone convicted at the federal level of victimless crimes and instead allow the medical community to deal with substance abuse issues in a way that salvages lives, instead of throwing them away.

This is just one step toward ending the over-incarceration of people of color, letting consensual adult activities become safer and destigmatized, and allowing those who are true victims of addiction and violent crime to be recognized so they can be given the help they need.

In addition to overcrowding our federal prisons, the War on Drugs has negatively affected our communities and the interactions that many people have with police. The drug war has single-handedly created gangs that police themselves, often through violence.

Consequently, the federal government has created a police state, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, which receives over 3 billion of our tax dollars annually. They have repeatedly raided medical marijuana clinics in states where medical marijuana is completely legal.

Long gone is the friendly local patrol officer who walks the beat and knows everyone in the neighborhood by name.

Instead of police who protect and serve, we have nameless, faceless SWAT teams that have been imported to our streets. In their zeal to go after drug offenders, who have harmed no one, they’ve taken scores of innocent lives in violent confrontations.

It doesn’t stop with the DEA. In recent months, we have seen the Department of Homeland Security, which receives another 50 billion in tax dollars, patrolling our streets in military fatigues and armored cars, uninvited by state authorities.

 

As your President, I will defund federal involvement in policing. I will defund the DEA and keep federal agencies out of local police matters unless called upon by state authorities.

I will end civil asset forfeiture prior to conviction, which authorizes police departments to steel billions from Americans every year and to keep the proceeds to fund their own departments. In most cases, people whose assets are seized are never even charged with a crime and cannot afford the expensive legal battles necessary to get their possessions back.

I will end the supplying of surplus military equipment like tanks and tear gas to over 8,000 federal, state, and local police forces, which has made Americans feel like enemy combatants in their own neighborhoods.

As your President, I will end no-knock raids, which too often, end up killing innocent bystanders like Breonna Taylor.

And I will end qualified immunity so that good citizens can take legal action against police brutality when it becomes necessary.

These are not toothless half-measures designed to appease special interests. This is getting government out of the way of Americans’ lives and stopping the harm which government itself has created.

The result of these measures will be far reaching and strongly positive.

Our streets will be safer for our kids.

Those suffering from serious disease will be able to get the relief they need from the many medicinal applications of marijuana and other drugs that are illegal or severely restricted.

It will be far easier for people dealing with drug addiction to get the help they need, saving lives.

Finally, drug offenders now in prison who have harmed no one will be free to go home to their families.