Protecting Communities and Building Trust By Reforming Our Criminal Justice System
America is the land of the free, and yet more of our people are behind bars, per capita, than anywhere else in the world. Democrats believe we need to overhaul the criminal justice system from top to bottom. Police brutality is a stain on the soul of our nation. It is unacceptable that millions of people in our country have good reason to fear they may lose their lives in a routine traffic stop, or while standing on a street corner, or while playing with a toy in a public park. We can and must do better for our communities.
It is past time to end the failed “War on Drugs,” which has imprisoned millions of Americans—disproportionately Black people and Latinos—and hasn’t been effective in reducing drug use. Substance use disorders are diseases, not crimes. Democrats believe no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs. Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level. All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged. Poverty is not a crime, and it should not be treated as one. Democrats support eliminating the use of cash bail and believe no one should be imprisoned merely for failing to pay fines or fees. Equal justice under the law should not be contingent on the ability to pay for quality legal representation.
Above all, Democrats believe in redemption. We must deepen our commitment to helping those who have served their time re-enter society, earn a good living, and participate in our democracy as the full citizens they are. We support the automatic expungement of certain criminal records for those that have been fully acquitted, wrongfully convicted, or pardoned by the executive. The formerly incarcerated should not be blocked from exercising their voting rights or accessing public services. Continuing to punish a person after they have rejoined the community is both cruel and counterproductive.
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