Even though the United States contains just 4.4% of the world’s population, 22% of all prisoners are in the U.S. Over 4.5 million people, nearly 2% of U.S. adults, are in prison, in jail, or on parole. If we are to revive our legacy as the Land of the Free, we must end mass incarceration and the destructive war on drugs, and we must revise the mandatory sentencing guidelines that prop up the school-to-prison pipeline and promote recidivism. I support ending for-profit prisons and detention centers, including those used in the current detention of immigrants and their children.
That would begin to eliminate the artificial demand for prisoners that incentivizes incarceration, but we must also dismantle the legal requirements that mandate it. Currently, about 45% of Georgia’s prisoners are awaiting trial for a nonviolent offense. These fellow citizens, who have not even been accused of a violent crime, are spending months behind bars, on your dime, without trial. That is why I also support eliminating cash bail for nonviolent offenders.
Mass incarceration is the latest iteration of a long line of policies that adversely affect underserved racial and ethnic groups, and it is a stain on the moral fabric of this nation. Currently, America spends close to $250,000 per person per year incarcerating individuals who are guilty of nonviolent crimes. Investing instead in education, job training, mental health care, and reform is a much more constructive, effective, and humane form of justice.