Reform the Criminal Injustice System: Justice not Jailing
We need to get smart on preventing crime, not by increasing the prisoner population, but by investing in education and rehabilitation, and restoring safe neighborhoods and communities. The United States prison binge has resulted in over 2 million people being incarcerated – the US now holds one out of four of the world’s prisoners, half of them non-violent.
To reverse this, we need to invest in humane treatment, personal involvement of youth, and job creation. We need to restore sentencing discretion to judges by repealing mandatory sentences and arbitrary "three-strikes” laws. We also need to restore due process, judicial discretion, and constitutional restraints on law enforcement that violate equal protection and due process of law. Mr. Nader opposes the death penalty because its implementation tends to discriminate by race and class, does not deter crime, often results in innocent people being executed, and corrupts the exemplary status of the state.
Racism in the Criminal Justice System
The Nader campaign recognizes the pervasiveness of racial disparity in the U.S. criminal justice system. At every stage of the process, discretion results in people of color being treated unfairly. It begins with police focus on communities of color and use of racial profiling, continues with prosecutorial discretion on how people are charged or not charged, and the types of plea agreements that are negotiated. Racism shows itself again in sentencing decisions by judges and the application of post sentencing relief by parole officers.
The Failed War on Drugs
The Nader campaign supports ending the war on drugs and replacing it with a health-based treatment and prevention-focused approach. Enforcement of drug laws is racially unfair, and dissolution of the drug war would begin to make the types of changes needed in our criminal justice system.
According to the federal Household Survey of drug use, "most current illicit drug users are white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were current illicit drug users in 1998." And yet, blacks constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%.
The drug war has failed – we spend nearly $50 billion annually on the drug war and yet problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen. We need to acknowledge that drug abuse is a health problem with social and economic consequences. Therefore, the solutions are – public health, social services, economic development and tender supportive time with addicts in our depersonalized society. Law enforcement should be at the edges of drug control, not at the center. It is time to bring some currently illegal drugs within the law by regulating, taxing and controlling them. Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime, violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing.
Reform the Injustice System
The Nader Campaign supports reforming the (in)justice system. The Nader Campaign believes we need to get smart on preventing crime, invest in education, and rebuild and restore safe neighborhoods and communities. The United States prison binge has resulted in over two million people being incarcerated – the US now holds one out of four of the world’s prisoners, half of them non-violent. The US prison complex could be considered, perversely, the nation’s major public housing project.
To reverse this condition, we need to invest in humane treatment, personal involvement with youngsters, and job creation. We need to restore sentencing discretion to judges by repealing mandatory sentences and arbitrary "three-strikes” laws. In place of mandatory sentencing we need sentencing guidelines, however, these guidelines need to allow judges to treat each case individually and not be mandatory guidelines like the federal sentencing guidelines. We also need to restore due process, judicial discretion and constitutional restraints on law enforcement that violate equal protection and due process of law.
The Nader Campaign also supports passage of the End Racial Profiling Act, championed by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. in the House and Senator Russell Feingold in the Senate. The End Racial Profiling Act would dissuade law enforcement from engaging in profiling by requiring collection of race data, and providing effective legal remedies for victims of racial profiling. The root cause of racial unfairness in the criminal justice system starts with a law enforcement focus based on racial profiling.
This fall, several Members of Congress plan to re-introduce the "End Racial Profiling Act” to address this endemic problem. This bill is both timely and necessary considering the increase of racial profiling post 9/11. The Department of Justice has already banned federal law enforcement officials from engaging in racial profiling during the course of their investigations, although we have seen that this is not stringently enforced.
Each year, more than 23 million Americans become victims of crime. The Nader Campaign recognizes that crime and violence are caused by complex factors and that there is no quick fix. The many factors include: increasing poverty, unemployment, and the growing rich-poor divide; from the failure to invest and nurture children, from family breakups, to the incessant marketing of violence and corporate pornography; our inability to provide treatment for those addicted to drugs and alcohol; the proliferation of guns; the rise in intolerance based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual preference… all these contribute to crime.
The criminal justice system should include approaches to making the victims of crime whole again through victim compensation funds and other programs. The Nader Campaign also sees the value of restorative justice, which requires that those who break the law have sentences imposed that require them to pay back the community that they damaged. The concept of restorative justice can be a progressive one. For example, youngsters who vandalize a building could be sentenced to cleaning the building.
Moratorium on the Death Penalty
The Nader Campaign opposes the death penalty because its use is racially unfair, is applied to the poorest who cannot afford an adequate criminal defense, does not deter crime, results in innocent people being executed, costs the state more than life in prison sentences, and corrupts the moral status of the state. The Nader Campaign supports a moratorium on the death penalty.
Defend, Restore and Strengthen the Civil Justice SystemThe civil justice system is one of the last places in this country where individuals can successfully challenge insurance companies, the corporations that make dangerous consumer products, and those who injure and kill through environmental and occupational dangers.
But for the past twenty years, corporations have been in the forefront of an all out attack – they call it tort reform, we call it tort deform— on the American right to trial by jury in civil cases.
This tort deform movement has invested millions of dollars into a campaign to create hundreds of think-tanks, public relations, polling and lobbying firms – the propaganda machine of reckless companies seeking to escape the law.
These groups keep chipping away at state and federal laws designed to protect individuals from the rapacious wrongdoing of large multinational corporations.
The ultimate goal of the tort deform movement is to immunize corporations from lawsuits brought by injured citizens seeking justice against the perpetrators of harm.
The corporations pursue this goal in a myriad of ways – but primarily by lobbying legislators to deny injured citizens their full day in court by denying them a variety of long-established remedies and procedures—and by targeting for electoral defeat conscientious judges.
The corporate lobbyists are not absolutists. They will take what they can get. And they have gotten a lot – one slice at a time, year after year.
In many states, their tort deforms campaigns have capped real damages, pain and suffering damages, and punitive damages.
They have also successfully limited contingency fees, and restricted joint and several liability.
The corporate tort deformers falsely argue that the civil justice costs too much.
But they say nothing about the human destruction that results from unsafe corporate practices that are responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, injuries, and diseases and enormous economic costs to workers, consumers and the environment.
They say nothing about how the civil justice system reduces these costs by deterring companies from engaging in the wrongdoing in the first instance and making harmful and polluting corporations pay for their "torts.”
Despite corporate propaganda to the contrary, the American people want a chance to obtain justice before judge and jury.
Nader/Gonzalez would reverse the federal tort deforms of the past two decades, encourage the states to restore and strengthen the civil justice system, defend Americans’ constitutional right to a jury trial, and assign the resources necessary to bring to justice those corporations that unjustly injure innocent consumers and other citizens.
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