End Mass Incarceration

Policy Goals: End the Criminalization of People of Color

“In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind.”

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

Today in the US it has become a profitable endeavor to incarcerate Black and Brown people. In 2019, Black and Latinx people comprise 60% of the 2.3 million adults and children confined to US prisons, jails, and immigration detention facilities (despite representing only a little over one-third of the US population). As argued by Michelle Alexander in her groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow, the US system of mass incarceration has replaced other systems of oppression, such as chattel slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

Two defining features of mass incarceration depended on the execution of the federally sponsored War on Drugs and the systematic detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants. The War on Drugs, launched by President Richard Nixon and continued by every US President since, has turned many Black and Brown neighborhoods into police states. In fact, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, “nearly 80% of people in federal prison and almost 60% of people in state prison for drug offenses are Black or Latino.

Further, since our nation’s founding, the othering of immigrants of color (from Latin American, Caribbean, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries) has been a defining feature of US immigration policy. The list of racist anti-immigrant government policies is long and includes historic policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese Internment, the Bracero Program, the Indian Removal Action, as well as current policies like President Trump’s Muslim Ban, Family Separation, and his administration’s complete disregard for the asylum rights of refugees from Central America. By criminalizing immigrants who come to the US, our government is causing the conditions that make them vulnerable to theft, exploitation, and exclusion by elite institutions. The mass incarceration of Black and Brown people must end! Help us identify the right policies that will put us on that path. Here are some ideas we have identified so far:

  • Demilitarize law enforcement
  • Marijuana legalization with record expungement for those who have been convicted of use or distribution
  • End imprisonment for lower-level crimes
  • Reduce overly long sentences for those who have served time and pose little public safety threat
  • Sentencing reform for non-violent drug offenses
  • Create Department of Justice regulations to eliminate racial bias in the algorithms that determine who does and does not receive parole, early release, or pre-trial accommodations
  • Repealing Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • Close all immigration detention facilities

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