We need to rethink the purpose of the justice system. Our “justice” is often based on revenge and punishment, inflicting harsh penalties and jail sentences for what are often minor infractions or things that shouldn’t be criminalized in the first place. For example, according to the ACLU, more than half of the people in Allegheny County jail have never been charged with a crime and are stuck in jail only because they cannot afford the bail. Jail and court costs are expensive, and the longer someone stays locked up, the longer the person is out of work, not making money, and not paying the bills, starting or worsening a cycle of poverty.
I support shifting to a “restorative justice” system that takes care of people as first priority and finds ways to resolve conflicts peacefully. We best combat crime, not with harsh penalties and jails, but by reducing the reasons crime occurs and re-occurs. Good jobs, good schools, and guaranteed comprehensive healthcare will help people up and out of a cycle of poverty and crime much more than any jail or prison will.
- End cash bail. We must end cash bail as a condition of release from jail. No one who has not even been charged with a crime yet should be required to sit in jail simply because they don't have the money to pay the court's ransom. I believe firmly in innocent until proven guilty, and cash bail requirements mean many innocents sit in jail anyway. If there is no immediate, severe danger to the public, then there is no reason to keep the person in jail indefinitely, it goes against the principles of the 4th amendment to the Constitution.
- Legalize cannabis (marijuana), decriminalize other drug use, release offenders from jail. We shouldn't be ruining lives and wasting public resources investigating and jailing cannabis. It isn't our business what people do in their own time for recreation. Possession and use must immediately be legalized for all users, medical and recreational. Anyone convicted and imprisoned for cannabis use should immediately be released from jail. In general, the "war on drugs" has been an expensive failure and we must move to decriminalize drug use and refer users to proper medical treatment instead of the justice system. A single payer, guaranteed, comprehensive healthcare system would make it easy for drug users to find the treatment necessary without stigma. Note that decriminalization does not mean we condone drug use, only that we allow drug users to seek addiction treatment as medical patients instead of criminals that deserve punishment.
- Decriminalize sex work. I concur with the following proposed amendment to he Green Party platform: "The Green Party calls for the decriminalization of voluntary sex work under state and federal laws in the United States. Criminalization, including “Nordic model” laws that penalize purchasers rather than purveyors, force the sex industry underground, enabling the exploitation of sex workers by clients, traffickers, and law enforcement alike. Decriminalization is the model recommended by Amnesty International and a wide range of sex worker advocacy groups, and in New Zealand (where decriminalization was enacted in 2003) has led to increased health and safety among sex workers and their clients. It is the position of the Green Party that sex work should be treated under existing labor laws, including the right of sex workers to unionize."
- Demilitarization of police, more community oversight. Even small local police forces now look like occupying military forces, armed with military-style armor and weapons and even armored carriers similar to tanks. Our police should not be occupying forces. Military-style gear must be eliminated. Local police should receive training in de-escalation and conflict resolution. Police departments also should be overseen by a community board that reviews all actions taken by the police and any complaints received, with clearly available information on how to become involved in the board and report suspected police misconduct.
- Moratorium on new prisons, divert prison funds to schools and job programs. I call for an immediate moratorium on any new jail or prison development. Prisons should not be operated by private entities that profit from jailed individuals. Rather than investing in expanded prisons, we should invest in schools, including colleges, universities, and professional training programs, as well as job programs. I firmly believe good jobs and good schools cut crime more than prisons.