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The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners. Mass incarceration has created devastating social, racial, and economic consequences, and is not necessary to keep our communities safe. We need a public safety system that is less punitive, more equitable, reduces the prison population, and reduces recidivism among the 650,000 Americans that return to society after serving a criminal sentence each year.

  • Key Solutions and Concepts

    • Reform Law Enforcement by Incentivizing Community-Based Policing and Strengthen Accountability for Holding the Public Trust

      • Strengthen police accountability.

        • Create a national standard for training and certification that emphasize procedural justice, and a national standard for the decertification of those who should lose the privilege of holding the public trust required to enforce laws.

        • Create a national database of police misconduct records and lower the burden of proof in cases where civil rights may have been violated by law enforcement.

        • Require officers to intervene when their fellow officers misuse force or engage in misconduct and make reporting to superiors and oversight groups mandatory.

      • Reform national use-of-force standards. Place strict limits on permissible use of deadly and non-deadly force by police that includes banning holds that restrict airways and promote less-lethal weapons and techniques of control.

      • End qualified immunity as a defense and allow citizens to sue departments and governments for violations of their Fourth Amendment rights.

      • Support community-based policing strategies and cooperation.

        • Promote co-responder and diversion models that focus on dealing with the root causes of crime and social disorder such as mental illness, homelessness, substance use, and poverty. Fund and implement alternative response systems for calls involving people with disabilities or experiencing mental health crises that dispatches non-police crisis response teams of medical specialists to 911 calls related to addiction, mental health crises, or homelessness.

        • Require law enforcement agencies to implement new metrics for success of police that go beyond arrest and summons statistics such as community engagement, participation in youth outreach programs, and diversion of people to community-based services.

      • Demilitarize the police by eliminating the 1033 Program and prohibit the transfer of military-grade weapons to state and local law enforcement agencies.

      • Repeal civil asset forfeiture expansions under the harmful and racist War on Drugs that are disproportionately used against poor people and incentivize aggressive policing.

    • Reform Sentencing Guidelines to Return Discretion to Judges and Eliminate Racial Disparities in our Criminal Justice System

      • Repeal mandatory minimum sentences, automatic sentencing structures, and consecutive sentencing or “sentence stacking,” and return discretion to judges who are best placed to determine an appropriate sentence based on the circumstances of a particular case.

      • Support federal, state, and local prosecutors in reversing the overreliance on incarceration, particularly in relation to lower-level drug cases versus serious and violent crime. Expand judicial and prosecutorial options as it relates to alternatives to arrest and incarceration for low-level offenses. Reclassify criminal offenses and turn misdemeanor charges that do not threaten public safety into non-jailable offenses, encourage the use of non-monetary sanctions rather than fines and fees, and hold “open court hours” for those who have missed appearance and allow them to reschedule without fear of arrest under “bench warrants.”

      • End unnecessary pre-trial detention and offer pretrial services such as referrals to needed social services, transportation to court, and childcare assistance for appearances.

      • Improve sentencing structures and release processes to encourage timely and successful release from prison through measures such as retroactively enacting presumptive parole, second-look sentencing, and expanding “good time” credit policies.

      • Cash bonds must not be the first course sought by courts to ensure a court appearance in cases of non-violent crime. If a judge deems it appropriate because of a potential risk from a defendant, a cash bond remains an option, but cannot exceed 25 percent of the defendant’s net income after expenses at the end of the month and misdemeanor charges have a bail cap of $200.

      • Eliminate the 18:1 sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine as these have resulted in racially disparate impacts and undermine community trust in police. Retroactively apply reduced penalties for crack cocaine offenses that were imposed prior to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

      • Eliminate quantity of drugs as the primary driver of sentencing and focus instead on the crime and culpability of the accused.

      • Stop mandating programming requirements prior to parole release once a board has deemed the incarcerated safe to return to the community. Offer community-based programming instead after release to ensure timely release and reduce the incarcerated population.

      • Require racial impact statements on whether proposed criminal justice legislation is likely to have disparate racial or ethnic impacts on arrest, sentencing, and incarceration rates.

      • Apply all reforms that reduce the length of custodial sentences retroactively and immediately to ensure more equitable and reasonable sentences for those sentenced under older laws.

    • Ensure Prisons are Treating the Incarcerated Humanely and Are Rewarded for Reducing Recidivism

      • Create an independent body to monitor and inspect the Board of Prisons facilities with unfettered and confidential access to the incarcerated, staff, and documents, as well as mandate their findings be publicly reported.

      • Limit usage and times of solitary confinement and improve conditions of solitary confinement by tying grant funding to the conditions and extent of solitary confinement.

      • Promote physical and mental health among the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated by offering medication assisted treatment (MAT) for substance abuse and eliminating medical co-pays in prison and jail that are prohibitive towards inmates to seek medical assistance in prisons or upon leaving prison.

      • Protect incarcerated people and families from financial exploitation by requiring prison and jail systems to negotiate for phone and video calling services for people in custody to the lowest cost to the consumer, and by prohibiting the use of release cards that charge fees on money people rightfully had in their possession when arrested, was earned through working in the facility, or was sent by relatives and friends.

      • We must dismantle an inhumane system that profits from prisons and creates a perverse incentive to increase prison population rather than rehabilitate prisoners.

      • Allow incarcerated individuals to seek compassionate release and allow courts to grant reduced sentences for compelling reasons.

    • Reduce Predatory Practices and Overreliance on Probation and Parole Systems

      • Reduce the footprint of probation and parole systems by setting upper limits for probation sentences and enabling early discharge through program compliance.

      • Eliminate re-incarceration for technical violations of probation or parole rules when a new crime has not been committed or the individual does not pose a threat to public safety.

      • End privatized probation and other predatory financial incentives that encourage excessive probation sentences through the assessment of probation fees.

      • Eliminate driver’s licenses suspensions for nonpayment of fines and fees which place constraints on transportation needed to ensure people earn the money they need to pay their fines and fees, and which also undercuts their ability to support themselves and their families, and forces law enforcement to waste time on arrests for driving on suspended licenses instead of being focused on serious crime.

      • Require governments to pay inmates for their labor at the hourly wage that is equivalent to the state minimum wage so that the formerly incarcerated are not released with no money to support themselves while they search for housing and work.

    • Empower the Incarcerated to Successfully Integrate Back into the Community

      • Create prison-based programs where incarcerated individuals can take college classes during the final two years of their incarceration with access to continued support for another two years following release to help them achieve their degree or professional certificate goals.

      • Expand the reach of federal expungement or “clean slate” legislation to expunge records for people with low-level or victimless crimes.

      • Provide adults on probation with time-limited rental housing and housing retention counseling services, employment support, and case management to reduce recidivism, improve housing stability, and improve employment outcomes.

      • Ensure the opportunity to find the right job for those with criminal backgrounds by switching from an open-records approach on conviction information available to employers to a closed-record approach and expanding the Fair Chance Act to cover all employment: federal, state, and private.

      • End felony disenfranchisement of the right to vote regardless of a felony conviction and immediately restore voting rights to those currently disenfranchised.

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