Our criminal justice system is responsible for balancing the need for security within our communities with the freedoms and opportunities that every person needs to live a dignified life. Right now, across the country, we are not striking the right balance.
We lock-up more people than any other country on Earth. We criminalize poverty, needlessly separate children from their parents, throw away people who make mistakes, and destabilize and destroy families and even entire neighborhoods in the process. Instead of treating people with respect and dignity, our culture of policing and punishment routinely makes people more vulnerable — not only the people we over-police and over-punish, but all of us.
We need to reform the components of our criminal justice system that are costly, counterproductive, and cruel. We are safer when we use jail not as a default, but as a last resort. If we cut our over-reliance on incarceration we can unlock resources and create a stronger social fabric with more opportunity and justice for everyone, not just a few.
We are fighting for a criminal justice system that monitors and incarcerates as few people as necessary for as little time as necessary to keep our communities safe. We want a system that is tightly coupled to physical safety, recognizes that every person has inherent worth and potential for change, treats each person with dignity and respect, and does not squander limited resources that should be used for other services and programs better suited for creating healthier and safer communities.
We are not asking for a utopian solution. The United States is sprinting in the opposite direction of other developed democracies. We do not believe that Americans are more dangerous or less deserving of freedom than the citizens of the rest of the world. We are living in a time where crime, and especially violent crime, is near record lows. The last time we had crime this low was during the early 1970s. Today, however, we incarcerate at five times the rate that we did back then. We aren’t any safer, but we are a lot less free.