Reform our Criminal Justice System
The justice system in America is outdated and requires a reform. This should be a concern to all Americans because your taxpayer money is used to keep prisons running and inmates fed. A big issue with our justice system here in America is that prisoners struggle to reintegrate with society onced released. Legal reform is a very broad topic but the three areas i think we are start focusing on are; overcrowding in U.S. jails, public defenders vs. private lawyers and rehabilitation.
“The United States has 5% of the world's population, but holds 25% of its prisoners. Because of this mass incarceration rate, a lot of prison facilities across the U.S. are operating way obove, or are close operating at maximum capacity. Overcrowding is prisons poses great risks for not only inmates but correctional officers as well. Evidence has shown that inmates in overcrowded prisons suffer an increase in stress and racial tensions often lead to inmate-on-inmate crimes and violence towards the correctional officers. Disease and illnesses are able to spread much faster in overcrowded jails affecting both inmates and correction officers. Many prison facilities in the U.S. do not allow their prisoners any time outside and they are kept indoors 24/7. This affects the prisoners mental health and allows for sickness to spread more rapidly.
Many of the prisoners in jail today are in there for a drug offense. The number of people incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses skyrocketed in the 1980s during the Nixon administration. Nixon brought “The War on Drug” and his administration made harsh policies to combat the distribution and use of illegal substances. In 1980 there was 40,900 people incarcerated for a drug offense, and in 2016 that number has climbed too nearly 500,000. Mandatory minimums is a predefined term for certain crimes. For drug offenses mandatory minimums are decided by the amount of illegal substance you are caught with. For example if you are caught with five grams of cocaine, the mandatory minimum for your sentence starts at five years. Mandatory minimums forces a judge to hand down a minimum prison sentence based on the charges, and this issue a flaw because not all drug offenses are the same. If you are a first offender and the judge believes you deserve one year in jail plus community service, he cannot give you that sentence because of the mandatory minimum. In an article “The GOP Argument Against Criminal Justice Reform…” Senator Tom Cotton argues that reduces the mandatory minimums will increase recividism, which is the rate at which released felons commit new crimes.
According to the bureau of Justice Statistics public defenders on average have only about 75% of the required time to go over a case. Those that can afford better private lawyers are more likely to beat the case, and they have more time available and the necessary resources to defend you. This system favors those with money, and those without are usually the ones that get trapped in the system.
Prisons in America do not promote rehabilitation to society. Boasting the longest sentences, America does little to provide much needed work experience to prisoners. We can fix some of these issues with our justice system by implementing these solutions; remove mandatory minimums, expand on rehabilitation program, and improve public defenders so they have more time to defend you in court.