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Our country holds less than five percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of the world’s prison population due to outdated criminal justice policies that largely target poor, uneducated people of color. More specifically, the war on drugs increased the presence of federal drug control agencies and pushed through policies that greatly increased penalties, enforcement, and incarceration for drug offenses, which has subjected minority communities to disproportionate enforcement and sentencing practices. Other policies like “tough on crime” prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, causing these children to be funneled into the adult criminal justice system as minors. Such policies inhibit full rehabilitation and sponsor the cycle of recidivism, while subjecting the children to abuse and neglect.
Across the country, there are police officers stimulating trust by honorably preforming their duties and demonstrating that it is possible to prevent and discourage crime without the use of excessive force; however, racial bias, stereotyping, and the “blue wall of silence” has led to centuries of over policing, excessive force, and unnecessary shootings. The Department of Justice investigations into police departments have found that many are often in violation of at least three U. S. Constitutional amendments – the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth – and repeatedly engage in patterns of racial bias, which often promote small crimes turning fatal for poor, minority Americans. Racial disparities within arrests, aggressive policing, and a long history of the concealment of oppression produces distrust among minority communities. Within these communities, statistics have shown that police arguably fail to protect the minority residents, specifically those who are of African American origin as they constitute of about 13 percent of the population but make up more than half of the reported murder victims within the United States. In addition, law enforcement officers are not held accountable for their actions in court. American policing is fundamentally broken.
We should aim on reforming our criminal justice system, addressing the entrenched racial disparities among policing, the decriminalization of drugs and ending mass incarceration as well as for-profit prisons. America’s criminal justice system focuses more on criminalization and incarceration rather than that of rehabilitation. We must reduce the number of people entering jails and prisons by changing the sentencing policies that drive extraordinarily long prison terms and investing in alternatives to incarceration that have been proven to reduce crime and recidivism. Furthermore, our unjust and for-profit bail system must change as it unnecessarily imprisons individuals who have not been convicted of a crime because they cannot afford to post bail. The laws and policies that restrict the access to basic rights and privileges and the ability of men and women nationwide to reintegrate back into society and his/her communities must be replaced by restoring economic and civic participation to these men and women.
The reformation within police departments begins with the acknowledgement of implicit bias, accountability through transparency, and better evaluations of police and crime. Police practices can improve through better training, higher standards, better pay, and investment in communities.
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