We must not allow ourselves to miss this moment and again ignore the calls for reforms and equality in our system of justice. We must have the courage and resolve to analyze the inequities and seek direct resolution to the wrongs of the past.
It is also imperative that we acknowledge the massive costs of the current system. The Department of Corrections budget has increased by almost 50% in the last 15 years, under both Democratic and Republican Governors. Add that to the massive costs and stress that breaking up families incurs on other social services, especially schools. Wisconsin taxpayers are footing a huge bill for a system that is racist and unjust.
Here is my six point plan to restore justice to the criminal justice system in Wisconsin.
First of all, we must end the War on Drugs in Wisconsin, starting with legalizing recreational marijuana. We must also treat drug addiction as a medical problem and move users into treatment programs and out of jails, if they are not guilty of violent crimes.
We must end cash bail. Ending cash bail is not about getting soft on crime, but rather the opposite. It's about judges being accountable as to who they allow to leave custody, and how, while at the same time eliminating the financial discrimination of poor people that results from being stuck in jail, while a person of means in a similar situation is allowed to walk free.
We must roll back mandatory minimum sentencing laws, so that judges are free to determine the just sentence for a particular situation.
We must not block juries from being aware of jury nullification. Juries do have the right to return a verdict of not guilty, not based on evidence, but based on an unjust law. Current practice in Wisconsin forbids juries from being informed of their right to nullify, and I will fight to end this injustice, so that juries can do the right thing in response to unjust laws.
I will pressure the Governor to reconvene the Pardon Advisory Board, with a commitment to being more aggressive, and begin pardoning those incarcerated for victimless crimes. I will also support and promote expungement of criminal records of those only guilty of victimless crimes.
We must also honor and consider basic voting rights for all Wisconsinites. Convicted felons, once out of jail but still on paper, are prohibited from voting in Wisconsin. The punishment does not fit the crime. Everyone of legal age and residency should be free, and indeed encouraged, to vote, unless they are guilty of voter fraud, or a similar crime. Your vote is your voice, and we must not silence people's political voices unjustly.
None of us are truly free until we are all free, and it is my intent as your representative to fight for a system that treats those most historically oppressed and incarcerated the same as everyone else, with justice and parity for all.