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What are the Presidential Candidates Saying About Criminal Justice Reform?

August 22, 2015

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  • The theater of Presidential campaigning is well into its first act. And although we’re more than a year from electing a new president, many candidates are working hard to meet their constituents and appear “relatable”. They’re proposing their campaign platform ideas such as getting the American economy back on track, eroding the corruption in Washington from big corporate interests, and finally, keeping America safe from “terrorism”…because if you can instill fear into people, you can control them.

    Going back to the first issue – the economy – is a vital talking point with all candidates. Every candidate has a vision of how to get jobs back to the American people. A key part to getting more jobs back to the American people and one that significantly contributes to the economy is criminal justice reform. If we can fix the criminal justice system, our economy will be stronger than ever. Let’s look at how a few of the presidential hopefuls are campaigning for reform in the criminal justice system.

    Martin O’Malley:

    Per his website, O’Malley is partly campaigning for the following:

    – Ensure that justice is delivered for all Americans—regardless of race, class, or place.

    – Build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

    – Ensure fairness and equal treatment for all people at every step within our justice system.

    We must also strive to make our “corrections” facilities actually achieve rehabilitation. We will be stronger as a nation if all of our fellow Americans are able to find jobs, rebuild their lives, and have a stake in our democracy. There is no such thing as a spare American. Source: https://martinomalley.com/policy/criminal-justice/. This is a bold vision but one that many can and should get behind!

    Rand Paul:

    Like we do at WipeRecord, Rand Paul believes the criminal justice system is in need of reform. Per his website, Paul says the he “has found that one of the biggest impediments to finding a job is a criminal record. Upon examining our nation’s criminal justice system, I found that the system is in desperate need of reform. I have called for comprehensive reform measures to fix America’s broken criminal justice system, ease the burden on taxpayers, and break the cycle of incarceration for non-violent ex-offenders.”

    You can read more about this issue on Rand Paul’s site here: https://www.randpaul.com/issue/criminal-justice-reforms

    Democratic favorite, Hillary Clinton, has not put too much time into campaigning for criminal justice reform. Hillary pretty much talks in clichés when it comes to how she wants to help America: Better Jobs, Better Education and more awareness when it comes to drug use and treatment. Although that seems good, it doesn’t really address the problem.

    The Washington Post has written a very detailed article about many of the candidates and their views towards the criminal justice system that you can read here.

    At WipeRecord, we believe criminal expungements and criminal justice reform are significant factors in reviving the American economy. If you allow Americans with criminal convictions to expunge/seal/vacate their records, it can only increase the chances of finding a job at a living wage. If you get ex-criminals back into the work force, you reduce recidivism and break the cycle of poverty. When more Americans are working, rather than incarcerated, the tax burden of incarceration at the state and local level is decreased. It is far more expensive to house a person in a county jail or state prison than it is to provide rehabilitation programs. Drug Courts and Drug Diversion programs have been shown to definitively reduce recidivism, and cost far less than incarceration. Another aspect of criminal justice reform is the legalization of certain drugs – most specifically, marijuana. Oregon is going to be the first state to allow marijuana convictions to be expunged (except driving while high). This is a monumental step in the right direction for criminal justice reform. Tens of thousands of Oregonians with a marijuana convictions will be able to expunge their record and hopefully have better job and housing prospects as a result.

    These are just some of the issues that the Presidential candidates should be addressing when they speak of getting the American economy back on track. We need to recognize that those who have paid their dues in the form of restitution, jail and/or prison time should be allowed in some way to expunge their record (for most crimes) and be treated on an equal playing field when it comes to applying for a job. A criminal background (in most cases) should not be lingering over someone’s head for the rest of their life.

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