Poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction etc. are societal problems in America that are criminalized. Rather than make structural changes that address and reduce these societal problems, America has relied on creating and expanding our system of incarceration and defining crime and criminals by our failure to create equitable systems to address these societal problems. The notion that people who suffer from these challenges are criminals without the context to which the ‘crime’ occurs, leads to furtherance of inequity and the life altering consequences of a criminal conviction.
There is growing bi-partisan consensus that ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ has not and is not the panacea to crime and exacerbates poverty, inequality, and the proliferation of other societal problems. States are attempting to reduce their prison populations; judicial and probation/parole reforms are attempting to divert rather than sentence, re-sentence, and re-incarcerate; and the federal government has over the last decade, made incremental steps towards reducing its prison population, yet America remains the largest incarcerator in the world and racial minorities remain largely and disproportionately impacted. Real justice transformation will not occur unless we address our definition of crime and criminals, the conditions to which crime occurs, and policies that further the expansion of incarceration.
Center for Health and Justice Transformation believes we must decriminalize low level offenses; work with affected communities that are disproportionately impacted; increase funding for poverty reduction; and ensure policy and reforms uphold the health of marginalized communities.
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