17 Tweets Expose a Problem With Democrats' Plan to End Mass Incarceration

July 1st 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The Democratic Party released a draft of its 2016 platform on Friday, and it hits on a lot of issues that progressive voters hoped to confront this election season — from raising the minimum wage, to guaranteeing paid family and medical leave for all workers. But to some, the Democrat's criminal justice reform plan falls short.


Though Democrats pledged to end mass incarceration through a series of reform measures such as abolishing the death penalty, the proposals listed in the draft would only cut America's prison population by 20 percent, according to criminal defense attorney David Menschel.

Menschel analyzed the Democratic Party's criminal justice reform plan in 17 tweets, raising questions about how the proposals could enable the party to achieve its ambitious goals.

Including marijuana reform in the Party's official platform does seem to represent a step in the right direction for legalization advocates, but giving states the discretion to set their own marijuana policies is unlikely to do much to stop prohibitionist states from arresting marijuana offenders. There were more than 1.5 million marijuana arrests in 2014, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, and 83 percent of those arrests were for possession only.

Private prisons have an incentive to incarcerate, because many guarantee that they will fill a certain capacity of their facilities, which is how they score lucrative contracts with state governments, for example. But the private prison population is relatively small (about eight percent of America's total prison population, which hovers around 2,200,000 prisoners) and closing these facilities wouldn't necessarily affect America's incarceration rate; it would simply shift the prisoners into the public prison system.

Criminal justice reform advocates say that sentencing and parole reform are some of the most effective ways to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.

"Courts across the country continue to condemn defendants to years, decades, or even life in prison for relatively minor crimes, handing down sentences that serve no legitimate public safety purpose," the ACLU writes. "These sentences are ineffective deterrents and can effectively throw away people’s chances at rehabilitation and reintegration into society."

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