Thereasa wants to work to fix the many problems that plague our criminal justice system. President Obama took huge steps in the right direction with the changes that he made and encouraged regarding some of the injustices embedded in our criminal justice system, but his work is not done.
Thereasa believes that the money bail system is unjust and needs to be abolished. In 2016, over 450,000 innocent people sat in jail because they were too poor to afford the bail set for their release. This means that 70% of the people incarcerated in local jails are actually innocent. While these innocent people sit in jail, many of them lose their homes, their children, and jobs. Some of those who are very sick and on a strict medical regime see their disease progress as they sit in jail without their necessary medication. Left with few options, these innocent people often accept plea deals just so they can get out of jail.
Mandatory minimum sentences still plague our system, which force judges to give certain sentences, even if they believe that the defendant deserves less time. Many non-violent offenses are included in the list of crimes that call for mandatory minimums.
The steepest mandatory minimum for a non-violent offense is LIFE in prison. This is more time than is required for all except two sexual crimes against children. What kind of message does this send?
We can't afford to keep sending people to jail for decades and expect them to be able to operate within the bounds of society once they are released when they don't have reasonable access to housing, jobs, or education services. The costs of imprisoning massive numbers of working age adults is a steep one. Not only are we losing out on the millions of tax dollars that they would have generated, but we're also losing the millions of tax dollars that are going housing, feeding, and clothing inmates. Ex-felons need a program that helps them to transition back into society in order to prevent recidivism. An ex-felon who can get work won't feel the need to steal from his or her neighbors and won't resort to selling drugs in order to provide for their family. Crime rates, those in need of public assistance, and child misconduct in school will decrease if we help ex-felons to transition back into our communities.
The underfunding of our public defender offices in the 4th District and around the country is leading to the incarceration or conviction of many citizens largely because they have a low-income. People who are guilty of being poor are being found guilty of crimes because public defender offices have too many cases and not enough resources to properly defend their clients.
In Maryland, the result of underfunded public defender's offices is that some people are temporarily stripped of their right to vote, will never qualify for certain housing programs, can't qualify for certain federal funds for college, and have trouble finding jobs because of their convictions. In other states, people lose the right to vote for life in addition to the consequences previously mentioned.
Properly funding public defenders will not require more money, it will only require the redistribution of money that is already dedicated to criminal justice by making the budgets of the prosecutors office proportional to that of the public defenders office i.e. the prosecutor's office handles 100% of criminal cases so if the public defender handles 90% of them, they should have at least 90% of the budget provided for the prosecutors office.
There is a lot of work to be done and Thereasa is prepared and ready to make the necessary changes.