Q: What is an issue that deserves more attention than it has received from candidates during the election cycle?
A: Criminal justice reform
With any policy, we must ask “Is our current strategy producing the results we want?” When that answer is no, we have to change course. Unfortunately, in politics, this practice is almost completely ignored.
One topic which is always “off the table” in political discussions is the criminal justice system. Despite its undeniable failures, we continue down the same path, unwavering in our blind support for the status quo.
As a nation, we spent $68 billion in 2010 on our prison system; $1.3 billion of that in North Carolina. In 2009, NC had over 41,000 people in prison and is expected to be almost 10,000 inmates above max capacity by 2016. Further, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), half of prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison in three years.
Due to our “get tough” stance on non-violent drug crimes, we are getting soft on serious crimes like murder, robbery and assault. According to the BJS only 37% of violent offenders served their full sentence. The justice system is also inherently biased: more than 60% of people in prison now are racial and ethnic minorities. Most of these failures can be traced to the War on Drugs, a $1.5 trillion dollar failed policy which has had zero impact on drug addiction but has dramatically increased violence through prohibition.
In NC, there are 156 people on death row but 140 death row prisoners nationwide have been exonerated of their crimes and released. Without a doubt, innocent people have been executed.
These are all serious issues being ignored so that politicians can look “tough on crime.” We must end the War on Drugs, the death penalty and focus our justice system on rehabilitation.
This is a response to a question about whether there is a moral obligation to vote, asked by Everything Questioned. Check back Friday to see who wrote this response, find more views at EQ's homepage, and share your thoughts through comments or by submitting a 300-word response to Austin Baird.