Sanders Talks Criminal Justice Reform

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, gestures as he speaks at the Californi Democrats State Convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, April 30, 2011. Sanders called on Democrats to work together to stop what he calls the GOP's attack on the middle class.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sen. Bernie Sanders has been critical of our current justice system, calling it “broken” and saying that we need “major reforms.” This week Sanders will roll out a criminal justice bill with plans to implement those reforms.

“My legislation will eliminate federal, state and local contracts for privately run prisons within 2 years. It will reinstate the federal parole system. It will increase oversight and eliminate the overcharging of prisoners by private companies for banking and other services.”

Sanders said in a statement Tuesday.

In addition, Sanders’ plans include reducing the number of people incarcerated, a disproportionate number of whom are black and Hispanic, develop social support for ex-prisoners to reduce recidivism, and return to the ideal of humane incarceration and rehabilitation. There are currently many practices within our prison system that Sanders considers inhumane and has said we need to, “start treating prisoners as human beings, not profiting form their incarceration.” There are currently mandatory quotas for the detention of immigrants in place, and perverse incentives to imprison larger amounts of people.

“As a nation, our goal must be to do everything we can to create the conditions that prevent mass incarceration. At a time when we are spending $50 billion a year on our correctional system, it makes a lot more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our young people than in more and more jails. Not only can we prevent thousands of lives from being destroyed, we can save billions of taxpayer dollars. Locking people up is a lot more expensive than schools.”

He spoke last month in South Carolina about reforming our current justice system, saying that there is no other presidential candidate that “will fight harder not only to end institutional racism, but to make fundamental changes in our broken criminal justice system.”

Recently, Sanders has talked passionately about criminal justice reform, police brutality and the unemployment rate for young black adults at Benedict College, a historically black college in Columbia, S.C, following an on-stage endorsement by prominent academic and activist Cornel West.

Sanders’ legislation will come at a time when House lawmakers are also expected to unveil their criminal justice reform legislation. A group of senators, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, have also been trying to reach a reform deal.

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