I struggled with what to title this post. It is not enough to discuss criminal justice reform. It is not enough to discuss immigration reform. It is not enough to support equal rights for men, women, and the LGBTQ community. It is not enough to stand for those marginalized by the religious right. It is not enough to support healthcare as a right as well as living wages. Social Justice encompasses all of these issues and more.
This post is the first of a group that will clearly and hopefully concisely express Bernie Sander’s views, proposals, and actual actions on the issues that are impacting America. At times I will contrast him with other candidates but for the most part he will be the focus. The goal here is to clear up the lies being spewed by the media and other candidates on his electability and what his plans really mean for us, the American people.
Social justice is a big umbrella and a bunch of important issues fall under it. One of these issues is criminal justice reform. Yesterday the grand jury in the Sandra Bland case chose to not indict anyone for her death. Bernie Sanders spoke out bravely about her story when it came out and met with her family without publicizing the fact or trying to gain points off of it. Below is his statement on the grand jury decision and it is worth the read.
“Sandra Bland should not have died while in police custody. There’s no doubt in my mind that she, like too many African-Americans who die in police custody, would be alive today is she were a white woman. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones tonight. We need to reform a very broken criminal justice system.” Bernie Sanders
This is a bold statement for an underdog in this campaign. He has been rebuffed by all the pundits and vilified for his ideals by some as well. Yet he marches on as he did so many years ago with Martin Luther King Jr.
Bernie Sanders has also issued a comprehensive plan for criminal justice reform. This includes but is not limited to demilitarizing the police, establishing community policing, requiring body cameras for police, as well as training in de-escalation techniques. A change in the code among police officers that allows for and gives good police officers the tools necessary to report the actions of the bad police officers. He made made clear that police forces should reflect their communities diversity in an attempt to help resolve the racism in our justice system.
“We must address the lingering unjust stereotypes that lead to the labeling of black youths as “thugs” and “super predators.”
Stereotypes like the ones that Hillary and Bill Clinton helped perpetuate. People of color need to understand that no matter how cool the Clintons have appeared to be they are not for people of color and have not been for a long time.
“They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel and the President has asked the FBI to launch a very concerted effort against gangs everywhere.” Hillary Clinton 1/25/1996 C-Span
No longer, will this tough on crime approach be tolerated. Criminal justice reform must include the overhaul of the failed War on Drugs. When the right is admitting it has failed you know it really has. Bernie Sanders is clear on the need to legalize marijuana. It is not simply about legalizing a drug but about taking purposeful steps to end the era of mass incarceration.
Black and brown youth are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, and receive longer sentences for drug offenses despite data that show that people of all ethnicities use and abuse marijuana at among the same rates. He is against the death penalty as well and cosponsored the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum prison term for first-time possession of crack cocaine.
He has also as a senator introduced legislation to end private prisons for federal prisoners. Bernie Sanders has no contributions from the private prison or private detention sector and is therefore not invested in their high recidivism rates. He also supports stopping local governments from relying on fines, fees or asset forfeitures as a steady source of revenue because this disproportionally impacts poor communities and minorities.
Bernie Sanders has committed himself to investing in mental health care. As a mental health care worker and advocate it is refreshing to hear something other than blame for the over 43 million Americans that suffer with mental illness. It is past time for the stigma to end. It is time for resources to be allocated to minorities and low SES individuals that need mental health care more than they need to be locked up. With Bernie Sanders we can have a president that will commit to getting people help rather than stick them in the pipeline that leads to jail over and over again.
“We need to invest in drug courts as well as medical and mental health interventions for people with substance abuse problems, so that people with addiction do not end up in prison, they end up in treatment.”
Criminal justice reform is just the first step, this segment will continue with the rest of the social justice issues that Bernie stands for as well as the other important issues impacting America today. Feel free to share it with the Bernie doubters, especially the ones that think that people of color have some sort of blind allegiance to Hillary. We owe her and any other politician NOTHING. Any support for Bernie is based on our research and our own reasoning.