We Must Reform our Prisons to Heal our Nation

Mass incarceration is a plague on America. For decades, politicians and corporations have been filling prisons with non-violent offenders to gain clout and cash.

That is not justice in the land of the free. And it’s only getting worse.

1 in every 100 Americans is now behind bars. Millions of innocent families have been torn apart, and millions of innocent children are forced to grow up without a mother or father (contributing to a cycle of incarceration).

Many inmates suffer from mental illness or addiction — disorders that have long been recognized as medical. Yet, instead of treating Americans in need, we lock them up.

The three largest mental health facilities in the USA are Riker’s Island Jail, Cook County Jail, and L.A. County Jail.

Why are we locking up our most vulnerable citizens? Why are we punishing families for the crimes of others? And why do we strip felons of their rights even after they’ve done their time?

Is this justice?

Reform is Needed to End Mass Incarceration

Americans are recognizing that it’s wrong to lock up and disenfranchise citizens for political gain. It’s wrong to split up families for years or life for non-violent offenses. And it’s wrong to incarcerate sick people who need treatment.

Prison reform is needed to heal our people and heal our nation. American justice is on the line.

The American Union has introduced the Blueprint for a Better America as a way to address our constitutional duty to establish justice. The ready-to-pass legislation will:

  • Introduce sentencing reforms and sentencing reviews
  • End the federal war on drugs
  • Reform prisons
  • Restore the rights of rehabilitated convicts

The keys to ending mass incarceration can be found in The Blueprint’s Weldon Angelos Justice Act and Matthew Charles Prison Reform Act.

Here is what these acts will accomplish.

The Weldon Angelos Justice Act

An End to the Federal War on Drugs

The war on drugs is a war on supply and demand. Any free-market capitalist knows that this isn’t a winnable war.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which categorized drugs into varying levels of illegality, will be repealed and Congress will enact a provision stating that recreational drug use is not a crime. States, which are laboratories of democracy, would be free to set their own policies.

By ending drug prohibition, like we ended alcohol prohibition in the 1930s, we will reduce the violence related to its sale, reduce the harm caused by unregulated products, and reduce the number of Americans incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses. Those sentenced under the federal drug laws will have their records expunged so they can move on to more productive things.

A Drug War Justice Office

A 12% sales tax would be placed on the sale of recreational drugs. Part of the tax revenues would fund a Drug War Justice Office. This office would provide valuable services to communities in need by:

  • Making substance abuse treatment available
  • Offering legal counsel for those formerly accused of drug crimes
  • Offering services to communities destroyed by the war on drugs
  • Implementing drug education programs for children and adults

Addiction and drug abuse are resolved by treatment and education, not incarceration. The Drug War Justice Office will be the first step towards healing communities and restoring the dignity of those who have struggled with drugs and incarceration.

Protection for Whistleblowers

Why do we call citizens traitors when they speak out against injustice? Whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden informed the public when our lawmakers break the same laws they vowed to protect.

The Espionage Act of 1917, which was used to charge Americans like Reality Winner for revealing classified information about Russian interference in our elections, will be amended. This clarification will ensure only traitors or spies providing information to the enemy will be charged with espionage, and that those trying to protect our Constitution and our values will be able to offer that explanation to a jury.

The Matthew Charles Prison Reform Act

End Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

For many crimes, the law ties our judges’ hands and forces them to give mandatory sentences regardless of the context of the case. People are not statistics. Context matters. Personal character matters.

We will restore the Constitutional right to judgment by a local judge and/or a jury of your peers by ending mandatory minimum sentencing.

Reinstate Federal Parole

Federal parole was abolished in 1984. In 1979, there were 22,000 federal prisoners. Now there are 220,000, and 40% of prisons are over capacity. Crime statistics did not change.

Abolishing federal parole was not “tough on crime.” It just packed our prisons even fuller.

All people have the ability to become better; federal parole gives inmates a chance to demonstrate rehabilitation and start a new life. It must be reinstated. The Matthew Charles Prison Reform Act will allow for a sentence review for those convicted of drug crimes and for all prisoners after 10 years of incarceration.

Access to Justice

There is no justice for the accused when they don’t have access to legal resources. That is how Kalief Browder ended up in Riker’s Island Jail for three years after being accused of stealing a backpack.

He was held without trial, never having been convicted of a crime. In the eyes of the law, he was innocent. He was finally found innocent and released, only to commit suicide as a result of his experiences.

In a just country, the accused are given the resources they need to defend themselves. The Blueprint will repeal The Prison Litigation Reform Act, which makes it harder for the accused to access the legal system.

Join the American Union and End Mass Incarceration

Along with ending poverty and ending the endless wars, ending mass incarceration is one of the three main pillars of the Blueprint for a Better America, a legislative package supported by the American Union.

With your help, we can leverage our votes to pass The Blueprint into law and end mass incarceration.

The American Union is non-partisan. We choose principle over party and policy over politics. To follow our cause, sign up for the American Union newsletter, and help us by spreading the word to family and friends.

Learn more at anamericanunion.com.

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