Criminal justice reform and the 2018 midterm elections
What’s the problem?
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, surpassing China and Russia.
In fact, if all of the entire U.S. prison population lived in one city, it would be one of the top ten most populated cities in America.
Out of all the people in state prisons, about 55 percent of prisoners were incarcerated on account of a violent crime according to the data from Prison Policy Initiative. In local jails, only about 24 percent of the inmates have been convicted according to the same data.
The costs of incarceration add up, and can cause states to seek out other options besides public prisons. According to the New York Times, states such as Mississippi have created contracts with private prisons to reduce spending.
According to a 2016 Justice Department report, private prisons are more dangerous for inmates and guards than public prisons. When reporter Shane Bauer went undercover as a guard at a private prison, he revealed that the cost-cutting of prison funds had lead to poor living conditions and didn’t encourage guards to ensure the safety of the prisoners. The Obama Administration had started to phase out private prisons, though Attorney General Jeff Sessions has since rolled back some of those efforts.
Although criminal justice reform is an issue with bipartisan support, the U.S. is still working on a way to solve it.
What does the left think?
Some on the left take the approach of decriminalizing drug possession and even legalizing marijuana as an approach to cut the number of people incarcerated for non-violent crimes.
According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans do support the legalization of marijuana, regardless of their political party.
What does the right think?
This includes the question of whether or not to shorten the minimum time of a sentencing for nonviolent crimes and reforming federal drug laws. According to the Pew Research Center, 45 percent of Republicans support legalizing posession of marijuana.
Many Republicans also still stand by the death penalty as well, a stance that over half of Americans support.
Something both sides agree on:
Both sides can agree that there should be a reform of the criminal justice system, including better programs for transitioning former inmates.
As for the opinion on drug policy, 67 percent of Americans from both political parties in 2014 thought government drug policy should focus more on providing treatment for people who used hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine than prosecuting the the users according to the Pew Research Center.