Criminal Justice Reform Is More Than Just Sound Bites and Cute Hash Tags

Criminal Justice Reform – Mass incarceration is one of the most egregious violations of our civil liberties and has become a huge civil rights issue. Studies have shown that mass incarceration and lengthy prison sentences does not reduce crime. What mass incarceration does is damage poor communities, and people of color with no social or economic benefit. Incarceration impacts the individual serving time and the families they leave behind.

The US incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other nation. The US has less than five percent of the world’s population, yet we incarcerate nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. There are 2.3 million people in jail or prison in the US. The imprisonment rate amongst black men is six times that of white men, the imprisonment rate amongst black women is double that of white women. 1 out of every 28 children has a parent in prison, 1 out of 9 black children has a parent in prison. The US spends over 80 billion per year on incarceration. And therefore, we need meaningful criminal justice reform in the US beyond nice sound bites and cute hash tags.

Criminal justice reform carries different ideals for different people. However, this topic has become a hotly debated bi-partisan issue.

Congress passed the First Step Act in December 2018, which seemed like a bright light for criminal justice reform, however, the Act has been underfunded. For the programs under the Act to be implemented, there must be a 75 million dollars budgeted a year for 5years. Trumphasonlyallotted14millioninhis2020budgetandnofundswere allotted for 2019. There are also some drafting errors with the First Step Act which has slowed the roll out of some retroactive action that could release thousands of people serving time.

As a Nation, the US must reevaluate our approach to crime, punishment, rehabilitation and collateral consequences. Incarceration and punishment should not be a first resort. We should be more focused on increasing public safety, building stronger and safer communities, reunification of families and treating people fair and just within the system.

Overall, crime rates have decreased. Crime rates have dropped drastically due in part to criminal justice reform across the US. However, we still have a long road to go until there is a rational, effective, fair and just system that also increases public safety and uses fiscal resources wisely.

Dee G. Rainer, JD
Former State and Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer; and Committed Criminal Justice Reform Advocate; That has been directly impacted by the criminal justice system;