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Modernizing Truth in Sentencing in Arizona

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Debates about criminal justice have erupted onto the American political scene in recent years. Topics like mass Incarceration, civil asset Forfeiture, three strike laws, and mandatory minimums have been dredged

Debates about criminal justice have erupted onto the American political scene in recent years. Topics like mass Incarceration, civil asset Forfeiture, three strike laws, and mandatory minimums have been dredged up and discussed at every level of government from county courtrooms to state legislatures and all the way up to the halls of the US Senate and the desk of the White House. According to Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project, a non-profit entity focused on prison population reduction, this new focus has yielded some important victories with New York, and New Jersey both reducing their respective prison populations by 26% between 1999 and 2012 (1). In the summer of 2015, President Obama became the first sitting President in American history to visit a prison. His visit to El Reno Prison, just outside of Oklahoma City, came on the heels of a speech against Mass Incarceration that the President made at an NAACP conference in Philadelphia (Horsely). The movement for change had reached all the way to the desk of the oval office. Indeed, it is of little wonder why our criminal justice system has come under such close scrutiny. With mass protests breaking out around the nation due to clashes between the criminal justice system and those it has victimized, the rise of a new Black Lives Matter movement, and an overburdened prison system that houses almost 25% of the world inmates (Ya Lee Hee), criminal justice in America has been driven to an ideological and financial breaking point. In a nation that purportedly values freedom and individual choice, the stark realities of our prison system have created a divide between those that would reform the system and those who seek to keep the status quo. I align with those stakeholders that desire comprehensive reform. In my opinion, it is no longer fiscally responsible, nor morally credible to lock American citizens up and throw away the key. The days of tough on crime, of Willie Horton, and of super predators are gone. Crime has been reduced to historic lows in almost the entire country despite significant increases in the population. According to Oliver Roeder, in a Brennan Center scholarly article, violent crime has been reduced by 50% since 1990 and property crime has been reduced by 46% (Roeder et al, p.15) while the population during this same period has grown by how much 249 million to 323 million, almost 30%. For the first time in almost 20 years, the conversation has finally shifted to how we can make the system equitable. My vision for our criminal justice system will stretch beyond the following plan to revise truth in sentencing. TIS remains a small component of a much larger question of our justice system. It is my fundamental belief that the way America treats its offenders needs reformation at every level of the system, from the court, to the prison. It is my view that our prerogative when treating offenders should be to address the root causes of crime, that is the societal structure that causes men and women to commit crime. Poverty, education, economics, and community reinvestment will be just some of the issues that need to be addressed to secure a better future. If we seek true justice, then we must seek to reinvest in those communities that need it the most. Only then can the lowest rungs of our society be given the opportunity to climb upward. In my view, a reimagined prison system idealistically strives to put itself out of business.

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  • 2017-05