Our criminal justice system does not do enough to protect the rights of the people who come into contact with it, especially those from historically marginalized communities. This includes victims of crimes and those who are surveilled, arrested, and incarcerated.

Victims of crime must have their rights respected and enforced in connection with criminal proceedings. No survivor should face a choice between accessing justice and fair, respectful treatment.

Though the United States is home to only 5% of the world’s population, we account for 25% of the world’s prison population. The result of this over-incarceration is that most of us, either directly or through someone we love, have experienced the weight of the criminal justice system. Documented racial bias in the system means that not all of us experience the criminal justice system in the same way. Black and Hispanic men are more likely to be arrested, to be convicted, and to be given a longer sentence than white men for the same crimes.

Our criminal justice system is not just unfair, it’s a waste of money. We spend billions of dollars a year on mass incarceration, but receive little in return. National crime rates remain historically low, but recidivism is high. For-profit prisons continue to proliferate by taking advantage of federal tax breaks. Working families struggle under the burden of cash bail and the costs associated with parole.

We need to address the current unjust and ineffective criminal justice system by implementing alternative sentencing for non-violent crimes and making marijuana legal at the federal level. We also need to end for-profit prisons and detention centers. Incarceration should not be a profit-making enterprise.

One of the best ways to reduce crime is to stop spending resources on incarceration and invest that money in our communities. Incarceration rates are highest among populations that are under-educated and underemployed. Childhood education and healthcare, jobs programs, and higher wages could stop crime before it starts.

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