Incarceration of an individual effects much more than the person in prison. Not only do their spouses and children suffer, but their communities overall. Children whose parent is incarcerated are found to suffer from a wide range of negative behaviors and long lasting symptoms. This includes physical aggression, depression, anxiety, decreased educational performance and an increased involvement in the criminal justice system themselves.
Reintegration services for newly released inmates that were once in place have been hit with funding cuts and cannot provide the services that they were once able to. This impacts the individual’s potential for housing, employment and education.The individual then is unprepared and unsupported to successfully reintegrate into society, setting them up for failure.
It has also been proven time and time again that minority populations suffer from incarceration more than their White majority counterparts. People of Black race are 30% more likely to get arrested than people of White race. This same disparity can be seen in the current US prison population. One in 15 American Black men are incarcerated and one in 13 American Black men are unable to vote. How can we continue to justify this as a nation?
Obviously there is a cost associated with housing, feeding and caring for these incarcerated individuals. As a country, we spent $80,000,000,000 in 2010 on 2,300,000 incarcerated Americans. In a nation that is looking to cut funding for education and mental health care, these dollars could be assisting people rather than spent locking people up and taking away their rights.
The judicial system’s discretion with sentencing has also become extremely limited. Mandatory minimum sentencing prescribes sentences for drug charges and does not allow for any other interpretations. These sentences are implemented for anyone who is charged with possession, for individuals who are drug lords, and everyone in between. It takes the power away from the judges that are appointed into their positions of power.
By supporting the Smarter Sentencing Act, you are ensuring that minority populations are treated justly by the criminal justice and legal system, that future generations in America will be more successful by having the support of both parents at home, ensure that your tax dollars are being spent to help people rather than to penalize them, and putting power back into the hands of local judges who are trained to deal with local issues. Lets end the incarceration cycle and the negative stigma surrounding the criminal justice system in America. Join us by telling the United States Congress to support the Smart Sentencing Act.