The Movement for Black Lives is a reminder of our nation's strained racial relations. The leading example of this today are criminal justice policies that have lead to the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of people of color, particularly low-skilled African-American males. Our failed criminal justice policies have resulted in collateral consequences that systematically deny millions, of all races and ethnicities, access to the American Dream.
To reduce crime and increase equal access to opportunity for all, we must invest in people, not incarceration. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the costs of the U.S. criminal justice system in 2011 was 212 billion dollars. What if even a portion of these resources were invested in low-income communities through job creation, increasing the minimum wage, and making education more accessible? This is what the People’s Budget of 2017 proposes to do.
If adopted by Congress, The People’s Budget would reduce poverty by half in ten years, fund DOJ programs that reduce recidivism, and provide investment in communities of color. While many argue that investing in law enforcement and prisons increase safety and promote law and order, the evidence proves otherwise. Since the early 1970’s draconian criminal justice policies were ostensibly created to deter crime. However, research shows that severity in punishment is not the best deterrent, rather it’s the certainty of being caught. Furthermore, an estimated half of all state prisoners are under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of their offense, making it unlikely that they have the capacity to think critically about their actions. True crime deterrence relies on our ability to provide opportunities (mental health services, drug treatment, employment, etc.) to all members of society; this is why investing in people matters.
To solve the challenges created by the historic marginalization of the urban poor, and current trends in criminal justice policy, we must stop dealing with social challenges such as homelessness, mental illness, drug abuse, and poverty through incarceration. Instead, we must recognize the value of all members of our society and addresses social issues in a humane and thoughtful way. The People’s Budget is a good first step in reducing the nation’s incarceration rate and increasing access to opportunity for all.
Show your support for the People’s Budget and tell Congress to invest in people not prisons.
Link to original article from Daily Kos
Marc Carr is the founder of Social Solutions, an organization committed to crowdsourcing solutions to intractable social problems. Follow Social Solution’s D.C. initiative to reduce the incarceration rate on Twitter @capitolinnovation.