Criminal Justice Reform: Reduce Mass Incarceration and Progressively Revisit Marijuana Policy
The United States incarcerates a larger percentage of our people than any other developed country in the world, with African-Americans unfairly bearing the brunt of this disturbing trend, constituting 1 million of 2.3 million incarcerated people in this country.
The United States spends $50 billion annually incarcerating people. And the problems don’t end after prison sentences expire, as only half can find a job within a year of release, meaning that they’re stuck in poverty and dependent on welfare benefits to survive. Their situation is even worse when they no longer qualify for federal benefits due to the criminal conviction, leading to recidivism.
We must revisit draconian federal drug laws to increase rehabilitation efforts for drug addicts while reducing incarceration as a penalty. Prisons should offer time credits to inmates who participate in educational, counseling, and vocational programs in order to incentivize such rehabilitation and re-integration into society.
Reclassify marijuana and start a responsible conversation about how to regulate marijuana on the federal level.
- 29 states now have some form of legal marijuana. A 2017 survey by Yahoo News and Marist University revealed that 55 million American adults currently use marijuana, which is nearly as many as the number of cigarette smokers. In Texas, Houston recently decriminalized possession of less than four ounces, saving $250 million in tax dollars and improving public safety by re-allocating law enforcement to address serious crimes. Dallas has followed suit by instituting a cite-and-release program set to begin next Fall.
- Despite these trends, marijuana possession remains a federal felony (grouped in the same schedule as the most dangerous drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine). This creates confusion about the interaction of state and federal laws and prevents legal marijuana businesses from using the banking system.
- The federal government must respect each state’s democratic choice whether to legalize marijuana. The federal government wastes your tax dollars when it implements law-enforcement task forces to interfere with states whose voters have spoken on this issue.
- By regulating marijuana through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the federal government would increase federal revenue via taxation, similar to the tobacco tax. A mature marijuana industry would raise $28 billion in annual tax revenue at the federal, state, and local levels, including $7 billion federally. This revenue could be used to fund public benefits, such as health care, student-loan forgiveness, and free college tuition.
- Industrial hemp industry would be a boon to U.S. economy and environment (hemp is a substitute for many unsustainable products, such as non-organic cotton, plastics, and cement).
- Chris Perri proposes to start a conversation about how to responsibly implement change in the federal marijuana laws in a manner that respects each state’s choice on the matter.