Principles

Criminal Justice Reform

When the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but houses nearly one-quarter of the world’s prisoners, the system isn’t working. A country with our level of prosperity has no business having the highest incarceration rate in the world; our broken criminal justice system disproportionately affects minorities and poor communities, and is a burden on our whole society. 

There are simple, bipartisan approaches we can take to reform our criminal justice system to make our communities safer, make our laws fairer, and save lives in the process:

  • End the failed "War on Drugs." The disastrous War on Drugs has been costly, deadly, and a complete failure. We must put an end to draconian minimum sentencing laws for non-violent drug offenses and recognize — as other countries have successfully done — when drugs are a public health issue, not a criminal issue.  
  • Repair the damage done by racial bias. Black Americans are nearly six times more likely to be incarcerated for drug-related offenses than white Americans, despite similar substance usage rates. It's time for this kind of unconscionable disparity to end, and we can begin with outlawing racially biased laws such as "stop and frisk."
  • Remove barriers to reentry. In 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law first-in-the-nation bipartisan clean slate legislation for the state of Pennsylvania, which seals non-violent criminal records and ensures individuals who have served their time do not fall into a lifetime of poverty by removing barriers to housing, education, and economic opportunity. I will support federal clean slate legislation such as "Ban the Box" initiatives and anti-recidivism programs, and I will work to ensure all individuals have a meaningful second chance after returning from prison. 
  • Restore voting rights. Laws vary by jurisdiction, but nearly all U.S. states have some form of law barring formerly incarcerated individuals from voting (even though they count in census data used to determine congressional districts). Nationwide, those who have paid their debt to society must have their right to vote restored.
  • Fully legalize marijuana. Currently, marijuana is categorized as a Schedule 1 drug on the Controlled Substance list. Marijuana must be removed from the Schedule 1 category to allow for researchers to better understand its effects, risks, and benefits. Because of this, veterans are unable to receive medical marijuana at VA Hospitals, even where medical marijuana has been legalized at the state level. There is growing public support for marijuana legalization across the U.S. Thirty states have moved to reduce restrictions on marijuana, and 9 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for recreational use. It's long overdue that Congress rethinks its outdated federal marijuana policies. 
  • Address gun violence with common sense reforms. I will never vote to repeal the right to bear arms, but we know from recent events that there is still a long way to go to secure our communities and protect them from gun violence. Along with 90% of all Americans, I support universal background checks to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and the mentally unstable, as well as banning bump stocks and raising the minimum age for gun purchases. There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our communities, and members of Congress must stand up to the gun lobby in Washington. 

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