#cut50 co-founder Van Jones, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, #cut50 co-founder Jessica Jackson, #cut50 National Director Michael Mendoza and #cut50 Deputy Director Alex Gudich.
The U.S. is home to 5% of the world’s population, but has over 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. 2.4 million people are behind bars in the United States; close to 1 out of every 100 Americans. America spends $80 billion every year on incarceration– an expense that has a devastating impact on individuals and communities, especially communities of color.
Democrats and Republicans both share the blame, with the prison population growing by over 700% over the last 40 years under both political parties. But that is changing. Both sides of the political spectrum are increasingly in agreement that the criminal justice system is fundamentally broken. This gives us a window of opportunity to pass policy changes that will transform millions of lives and entire communities.
This year, we will see the first comprehensive legislation, authored by Democrats and Republicans, with a real shot at rolling back mass incarceration in America. This is a monumental moment that we cannot let pass.
Our goal is to get this bill on the President’s desk and signed into law by the end of 2015. In order for that to happen, we need a massive groundswell of support—grassroots activists, formerly incarcerated people, influencers, artists—to pressure Congress and the President to take action.
We refuse to accept a justice system that destroys lives rather than rebuilding them. We refuse to accept the standard partisan fighting and bickering that all too often prevents substantive change.
We demand changes that reflect the following guiding principles:
- End the criminalization of drug use and mental illness: Treat drug abuse as a medical problem and encourage alternatives to incarceration for the mentally ill and the addicted.
- Reduce overly harsh sentencing: Let judges judge, and bring the capacity for compassion back into the courtroom. by eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing that have contributed to much of the increase in the prison population.
- End the school-to-prison pipeline: Ensure that schools are places of learning, not fear and punishment.
- Make policing work for everyone: Incentivize policing that is fair, accountable, and effective, and create policies that strengthen ties between law enforcement and communities.
- Provide the tools for everyone to succeed: Expand opportunities for education and job training in prisons, and remove barriers to employment, education and voting for those who have served their time.