Reform our Justice System
There are some that point out that our justice system is profoundly broken -- and there are those who point out that it is doing exactly what it was supposed to do. Our solutions must go beyond decarceration. Julie believes that ending for-profit prisons, ending the war on drugs, and ending the moral crisis of mass incarceration in America, once and for all must be top priorities in Congress. Repairing the damage will mean that we must fundamentally reform the way that we police our communities in this country -- and that means having honest conversations about racism, and its role in the excessive use of police force and abuse of power.
Mass incarceration is a crisis facing this country. Texas has one of the largest prison populations in a country that imprisons more of our own people than any other country on the planet.
As Michelle Alexander points out in The New Jim Crow, mass incarceration is the process by which people are swept into the criminal justice system, branded criminals and felons, locked up for longer periods of time than most other countries in the world who incarcerate people who have been convicted of crimes, and then released into a permanent second-class status in which they are stripped of basic civil and human rights, like the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, and access to public benefits. It tears at the fabric of our society.
Our criminal justice system criminalizes poverty, and because of our state’s legacy of institutional racism, the burden falls heavily on the African American and Latinx community in Texas. African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites and face disproportionately tough sentencing in relation to whites.
Many of those imprisoned are incarcerated as a direct result of America’s massively failed War on Drugs -- which is more accurately described as a war on people. And although people use drugs like marijuana at roughly the same rates across all races, black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans.
Julie believes that we can be more effective at rehabilitation and we can improve safety in our communities at a much lower cost, while improving the opportunities for young people to achieve to their full potential, and that we need to end the U.S. government’s disastrous war on drugs, and encourage comprehensive reforms in drug control policies that have had a devastating effect on communities of color.
Abolishing private and for-profit prisons in this country is a top priority for Julie. Not only are they profoundly immoral -- they cost taxpayers more, they perversely incentivize locking people up, and, because they are not subjected to oversight and accountability, they have been shown to have proven higher levels of violence. We know that mass incarceration is counterproductive, expensive and immoral. So our justice system needs ways for nonviolent offenders to be held accountable for their crimes outside of the prison system and to support programs that help rehabilitate them, and any solution to ending mass incarceration must include sentencing reform.
We can improve access to mental health services in our society by ensuring that every American gets high quality health care through Medicare for All -- and we can improve mental health services within our prison systems to help diagnose and address those with existing mental health issues and decrease recidivism.
We need real, transformative change.
Ensure Police Accountability and Heal Our Communities
Our police and law enforcement must be held to a higher standard. We need to end over-aggressive policing and combat racially discriminatory practices in our police force, hold police accountable for abuse and excessive force, and begin the healing process between our communities and law enforcement.
Black Americans make up a disproportionate number of those who are killed by police, and this is a crisis that deserves a federal response. The widespread use of excessive force in American police forces, including the deadly shootings of unarmed civilians -- many in their own homes -- undermines the public’s ability to trust in the police, and, as a consequence, undermines our law enforcement’s ability to effectively serve the communities they have sworn to protect.
Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Jones, Eric Garner, Jason Pero, Stephon Clark, Sandra Bland, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson -- all victims of excessive force. They should be alive today. And their stories are not unique.
We must hold police officers accountable when they use excessive force by establishing national standards for police conduct local departments who are the recipients of federal funds. That means restricting the use of deadly force unless there is an imminent threat to the life of another person, and every other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted. It means that any local law enforcement entity must demonstrate accountability for all instances of biased policing, including rigorous internal reviews and any appropriate disciplinary actions that were taken, during the time period when federal funds are used. And it means that we need to require that those departments use de-escalation procedures whenever possible.
Uphold the Constitution and Ensure Due Process
Julie knows that our current criminal system punishes people for being poor -- so we need to abolish money bail, and we need to protect every American’s right to a fair trial.
The current system allows bail, but only for those who can afford it -- and as a result, millions of people are locked up simply because they are poor. We have to end money bail. Reforming the bail and criminal justice system will refocus public dollars on community safety and fair representation, and it will ensure that we no longer waste resources on incarcerating those who are not a public safety risk.
And make no mistake: the goal of ending cash bail and bail reform is not a better system of mass criminalization that works more efficiently to enrich corporations whose business model relies on electronic surveillance and monitoring. The goal is the creation of safe, caring, thriving communities -- through investments in high quality mental health care, in great public schools, in job creation, and in addiction treatment in our least advantaged communities.
In 1963, Gideon v. Wainwright ruled that state courts are required to provide counsel to criminal defendants unable to pay for an attorney -- but that does not guarantee a fair process for defendants who cannot afford a lawyer. Upholding the rights of the accused falls on public defenders who are overworked and who are incentivized to take on case loads that prevent them from adequately providing effective counsel to the accused. Justice requires balance. When public defenders can’t make a living wage, they cannot do the job that our Constitution requires. We need to ensure that public defenders have the resources they need to provide adequate counsel to their clients
Real, transformative change
Sustainable change can only happen when we recognize that we, as a state and as a country, shift our emphasis toward solving problems in ways that don't rely on policing and incarceration as the first option we use, and instead prioritize strategies that make our people, our communities safe and healthy.
Public safety means that our schools are fully funded, that we have safe, affordable housing, and that our focus on public safety in our communities centers mental health services, treatment for addiction, and health care.
You can count on Julie to take meaningful action in Congress to fight to end mass incarceration and to reform our system more than any other candidate, because she believes that we need to end the corrupting influence that corporate private prison groups and lobbies like the GEO Group and Core Civic have on our government's policy. Nor can she be swayed by the predatory lending industry, the private bail industry, the private probation industry, or any industry that profits from incarceration and the fees associated with the cycle of debt associated with involvement in the criminal justice system. In fact, Julie does not take a single dime from any PAC. She is truly committed to putting people first.
In Congress, Julie is committed to:
- 1. Shutting down private prisons once and for all, and preventing the federal government from contracting with private prison corporations.
- 2. Passing the the Marijuana Justice Act (H.R. 1456), which would end the federal prohibition on marijuana,and expunge the records of those arrested for minor offenses.
- 3. End mandatory minimum sentencing.
- 4. Supporting the Fair Chance at Housing Act (H.R. 3685), which would help the formerly incarcerated and drive down recidivism by banning “1-strike” policies, which empower landlords to evict tenants for a single occurrence of criminal activity, even if it is a minor incident.
- 5. Passing the No Money Bail Act (H.R. 4611) to finally end the practice of cash bail, and withholding funding from states that continue the use of cash bail systems.
- 6. Enforcing criminal liability for civil rights violations resulting from police misconduct.
- 7. Ensuring that those who violate Section 242 by depriving any civilian of their constitutional or legal rights are held accountable, and restricting the “qualified immunity” defense for law enforcement officers under section 1983.
- 8. Demilitarizing our local police forces by ending the federal government’s 1033 program, which puts armored vehicles, high-caliber rifles, aircraft equipped with weapons, grenade launchers, and other military weapons and vehicles on our community streets where they do not belong.
- 9. Ending the school-to-prison pipeline, by combatting harsh, and unequal disciplinary methods by ensuring that schools receiving federal funding commit to reforms including eliminating the use of police officers as disciplinary agents, implementing positive, evidenced-based disciplinary practices, and requiring implicit bias training for school personnel.
- 10. Expanding funding for public defenders at the state level, to ensure that they can effectively defend their clients.
- 11. Finding ways for nonviolent offenders to be held accountable for their crimes outside of the prison system and supporting programs that help rehabilitate them.
- 12. Ending the U.S. government’s war on drugs and criminalization of addiction, and encouraging comprehensive reforms in drug policies that have had a devastating effect on communities of color.
- 13. Advocating for a shift from punishment to reformation in the criminal justice system.
- 14. Holding police officers accountable for the use excessive force.
- 15. Abolishing the death penalty.