Reforming Criminal Justice

 
 

The criminal justice system in the United States and Ohio is broken...

Today our courts work better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. We are spending billions of dollars on failing methods when we could be investing in education, job training, and crime prevention programs that will make our communities safer and stronger. It doesn’t have to be this way. Janet Garrett will go to congress and fight for a more efficient and more just system that promises a brighter future for Ohio. After years of unsuccessfully fighting crime in Ohio by filling our prisons, it’s time for a new approach to criminal justice.

The Facts

Currently Ohio’s courts and prisons are far too overcrowded. Prisons designed to house 38,000 inmates currently hold almost 51,000, according to the ACLU. Remarkably, this overcrowding is not leading to any decrease in crime, begging the question: Why are we spending so many taxpayer dollars on the current prison system?

According to the most recent study released by Ohio’s Office of Criminal Justice Services, the vast majority of inmates were unemployed when they were arrested (67%) and nearly 9 in 10 (90%) had a history of drug abuse. In fact, more than a quarter of inmates in Ohio are imprisoned due to drug offenses. The fourth district needs better job opportunities and new approaches to combating drug abuse. In the nearly 50 years since we first declared the “War on Drugs” we have seen that sending more people to jail for longer periods of time does not prevent drug use in our communities. We also need to ensure that we end racist practices in the criminal justice system. According to the ACLU black Ohioans “are disproportionately over-represented in Ohio’s prisons. This is not surprising given that black people are more likely to be arrested than their white peers for the same offense.”

We absolutely cannot have a system that works better for some racial groups than others, and we cannot continue practices that make life harder for Ohioans in lower income brackets. It’s time that we get smart on crime. We need to focus on rehabilitative and restorative justice rather than on systems of vengeance so that inmates do not end back up in the justice system. We call this the idea of “restored citizens” and Janet Garrett is dedicated to ensuing that prisons focus on preparing inmates for their release so that they can return to society ready to participate in society.

Education

Today we have a school to prison pipeline that costs taxpayers billions of dollars and which is failing to provide our children with the opportunities that they deserve. There are many groups in Ohio working to provide better education to inmates, and who are working with employers in communities across the state to ensure that once an individual has paid their debt to society they have the opportunity to contribute to the economy. Janet Garrett will ensure that these programs have the support that they need to ensure that fewer inmates reoffend after leaving prison. In addition, we will work to end the school to prison pipeline by providing Ohio’s public school system with the resources it needs to successfully prepare our children to lead impactful lives. As an educator for over 35 years, there is nothing more important to Janet than ensuring that our children, the future of our communities, have the tools they need to succeed in life.

Monetary Bail

While we continue to pay for and overcrowded and ineffective prison system, we have also left untouched a flawed monetary bail system that fills our jails, mistreats the poor, and costs additional millions of dollar. Under this system individuals accused of a crime are forced to pay varying sums of money as bail in order to get out of jail while awaiting trial. Under current policies, rich and guilty individuals awaiting trial are allowed to walk free while middle and low income folks are forced to sit in jail for their trial date, based only on the fact that they cannot spare $10,000 to buy their temporary freedom. This system is wrong, and it does little to protect our society. We cannot look to wealth as an indicator of guilt. The amount of money you have should never be the deciding factor in whether or not you are free in this country.

Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment flies in the face of a legal system dedicated to justice. The Office of Criminal Justice Services reports that since 1981 at least 21 individuals sentenced to death have had their convictions overturned or vacated. These 21 people were wrongfully sentenced to death, and could have been killed in spite of this failed application of justice. Additionally, the death penalty comes at a high cost to Ohioans, with capital cases costing nearly three times as much as life without parole cases. The Dayton Daily News estimates that this could cost the state upwards of $16 million per year.

Solutions

As your Representative to Congress, Janet would work to do the following:

  1. Increase the number of programs providing substance abuse services to the over 26,000 individuals being released from prison each year. Currently only 6.3% of services offered are directed at dealing with substance abuse. These programs can be supported through “Second Chance Acts” which increase resources for reentry projects that help reduce recidivism.
  2. Support H.R. 4019 the “Pretrial Safety and Integrity Act” which is a bipartisan effort to reform the bail system in the United States protecting the rights of Ohioans and saving the government 14 billion dollars a year.
  3. Support legislation that cuts down on private prisons and reforms federal sentencing laws, following in the progress that Eric Holder made through the “Smart on Crime” initiative. We must pass legislation that changes federal sentencing standards for non-violent offenders and which encourages a phasing out of ineffective private prisons.
  4. Support legislation to abolish the death penalty at the state and federal level. It is an expensive and flawed policy that has failed to protect our communities.
  5. Continue to increase economic opportunity for the middle and lower class people of Ohio ensuring that more Ohioans have jobs, and with that the opportunity to work harder and stay out of jail.