The need for law enforcement reform is urgent and, although expanded training of police and prosecutors in protocols to which they must adhere need to be funded and put into practice, most reforms must be mandated via passage of legislation on a national and state level. There are too many self-serving reasons that motivate police behavior, especially in urban cities that are dominated particularly by African American males. Judges should be enforcing fairness in the judicial system as should the prosecutors who only just “lawyer” against the accused’s defense.
The following proposed reforms are the result of interviews with persons wrongfully incarcerated, research and discussions with numerous individuals who present a perspective of a broken system that has experienced an explosion of the criminal justice system beginning in the 1980s and gaining major traction during the 1990s and into the present day.
Think about it. Prior to the 1980s, the population of prisons, jails and all other such entities as well as the systems that filled them totaled no more than 400,000. By the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Law, with its twenty-nine (29) mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses (that particularly targeted African American males) began to cause an explosion of the prison and jail populations. This targeting continued and was ramped up even more as a result of Bill Clinton’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, an acceleration amounting to nearly eighteen times (18X) the rate of individuals connected to criminal justice before the 1980s.
This resulted in millions of wrecked & destabilized predominately African American families, a crushing blow to the ability of these families to achieve any wealth. Many African American children (particularly boys) were exhibiting out-of-control behavior because of mimicking the miscreant lifestyles of their incarcerated fathers. This ushered in an era of “baby daddies” and “baby mommas” that resulted in seventy percent (70%) of African American families being headed by single young women.
There is a critical need to reform the current criminal system. Any other direction will only create a band-aid with no adhesive capability. These proposed reforms should be considered for both national and state governance.
Mandatory psychological testing for every individual going into policing or currently employed as a police officer. Rationale: Many police have exhibited fear of African Americans, particularly of the male population, formulating mental images of youth and men as monsters to be feared because of their potential for animalistic behavior and thus the ability to overpower the “normal” police. Examples: Tamir Rice (age 12), Michael Brown (age 18) and Trayvon Martin (age 17), and many more.
Change the name of “police officer” to “peace officer” Rationale: The word “police” has taken on a pejorative connotation as opposed to “peace” that has the denotation of “serving and protecting”, the phrase typically emblazoned on police vehicles. Additionally, the agency itself should also be renamed “Department of Public Safety”.
Repeal and/or revise portions of the Accountability Act of 1998 to eliminate the ability to charge someone for a crime premised on “guilt by association, too often invoked to charge African American males for crimes of which they may have no knowledge but who happen to be in proximity to a person or persons engaged in criminal behavior.
Rationale: It is without sound reasoning and critical analysis for a law enforcement representative (i.e. police or prosecutors) to conclude that an individual sufficiently implicates himself in a crime simply by being in proximity or close association with someone who commits a crime. It is quite a leap to assume any individual has the education and/or the ability to deduce that another individual or individuals have either engaged in crimes or exhibited certain behavior that indicates they have criminal intent.
No Warrant, No Search – Vehicles, domicile, and person
Rationale: In inner city areas of the country, police have been known to pull over vehicles driven and occupied primarily by African Americans, enter the domicile of African Americans without a warrant, or search individuals in public places without probable cause. In these instances, the individuals are typically subjected to harassment in the form of verbal/physical/emotional abuse. Warrantless searches must be curtailed. In the interest of protecting the life and liberty of African American occupants of either vehicles or domiciles, the individuals so targeted must be permitted the opportunity to phone for an authoritative person to come to the location where there is interaction with police such as a lawyer, a minister or other identifiable authoritative person. This also benefits the officers involved.
Use DNA and forensic evidence – Every criminal case must be required to utilize scientific evidence to build a case against an individual to ultimately achieve guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, if someone involved in a crime consents to testify against another individual on condition of a reduced sentence, such an individual must submit to a lie detector test, and the results must be disclosed to the opposing counsel.
Rationale: Often, in criminal cases, an individual implicated in a crime will agree to testify against another alleged participant for the sole purpose of obtaining a reduced sentence.
Appointment of a special prosecutor in criminal cases.
Rationale: Prosecutors often have familiar and cozy relations with police officers and judges which automatically taints and compromises the outcome for the alleged accused.
Minimum Sentencing Guidelines – Mandate the creation of a Commission on Fairness in Sentencing at state and federal levels. The Commissions will be charged with reviewing all criminal records at both the state and federal levels as to the nature of the crime, the charges lodged, method of evidence collection leading to convictions and thus sentencing. Such cases will be additionally examined for racial disparities.
Rationale: Racial disparities are common relative to the system movement of cases of African Americans when juxtaposed to Caucasians, in particular. Examples are harsher sentences relative to lockup time and charges lodged against two individuals, one African American and one Caucasian. 8.
Social distancing during epidemics among state and federal prison and jail populations
Rationale: According to recent data, prison and jail populations experience contraction of COVID-19 at twice the rate of the general population. The result has been deaths of detainees and inmates at twice the rate of the general population. 9. Eliminate the use of plea bargaining as a primary tool to clear dockets
Rationale: Too often prosecutors have utilized the practice of cajoling a detainee into concurring with a plea bargain to expeditiously clear a docket and thus avoid a backlog of cases.
Public Defenders must have reasonable caseloads of not more than 35 at any given time.
Rationale: In excess of the number compromises the ability of public counsel to appropriately represent a defendant. Additionally, Public Defenders must have the benefit of legal assistants capable of research and other responsibilities that will reduce the workload of public defenders. Absent the protocols, public defenders are unable to properly represent defendants to result in a fair outcome in accordance with the constitutional rights of the defendant.
Rationale: Every defendant must have a Mitigation Report that provides a human side to the individual. Considerations as incorporated in the Report are pre-K through 12 education, postsecondary education towards a profession/career, including certifications, volunteer work, support letters, comprehensive family history, etc.
Abolish Mandatory Minimums
Rationale: Mandatory minimum sentences have destroyed families, had a negative impact on the psyche of children, particularly males, severely impacted the ability of young women to join in matrimony with a husband who could be a stabilizing force with the family and thus a contributor towards ending the “baby daddies” and “baby mommas” phenomena.
End the felony classes of X and M and similar classifications that create inordinate opportunities for prosecutors and judges to render excessive sentences
Rationale: Excessive sentences have had a major negative impact on the ability of millions of African American families to achieve stability, further resulting in the erosion of the social, emotional, and psychological well-being of those families. Further, an individual who commits a crime for which he enters prison at, for example, the age of 20, with a twenty (20) year sentence, will not be the same person at the age of 30 much less the age of 40, and, thus, the inmate will not be more mature relative to maki Require Policemen to Obtain Liability Insurance
Rationale: Excessive use of force has cost numerous cities particularly those dominated by African Americans millions of taxpayer dollars. The level of disregard for the citizen rights of African Americans, particularly males and, to a lesser degree, Latinos is rooted in a culture of policing that originated with slavery, the tracking down of runaway slaves and returning them to their masters. Changing a culture is a slow and arduous process, and sometimes it does not occur at all. Taxpayers must not be bearing debt for irresponsible behavior of rogue policemen.
Community Policing Must be Required
Rationale: To implement effective community policing, law enforcement hierarchy must institute the practice with the stipulation that police must reside in the community wherein they are policing. Community policing is ineffective when you are unfamiliar with culture and mores of the residents you are policing. It should be considered that police and fire departments exclude any applicants who live in census tracts where an abundance of first responders already reside or at the very least establish a five-year moratorium until community policing goals are achieved.
With the Completion of a Sentence, All Rights Are to be Restored
Rationale: Returning Citizens (i.e. ex-felons) cannot bear the stigma of being formerly incarcerated. Thus, upon completion of a sentence, all rights must be restored: voter rights, child custody and child visitation rights. The right to bear arms must be premised upon the severity of the crime (i.e. murder, manslaughter, domestic violence, and other crimes of that ilk)
Implement Diversion Programs Rather Than Incarceration
Rationale: Rather than tear the fabric of the family structure, prosecutors and judges are to utilize diversion programs as an alternative.
Drug Abuse is to be Treated as a Mental Health Issue
Rationale: Drug abuse is an addiction and, therefore, cannot be treated as a crime. The Commission on Fairness in Justice that becomes codified, when reviewing all criminal records, will recommend that those incarcerated for drug abuse (that mirrors alcohol abuse) would be consigned to treatment rather than prison or jail time.
Institute a Good Time Statute for Every Inmate
Rationale: No individual sentenced to prison should be put in a position to die there. A death penalty sentence is one thing, but a prison sentence must have a sunset time, not to deny an inmate the opportunity for life outside the institution. The requirement to reside in an assisted living residence would be more appropriate.
Demilitarize All Policing
Rationale: Policing should be under civilian control and should not mimic the army or national guard. Departments should not have access to or be allowed to use military-grade weapons. Exceptions should be made for SWAT units and they must be heavily regulated and severely limited in use. They should not be a standing unit but should employ specially trained officers from every community that would be able to immediately respond to any situation where circumstances would require such a unit. Otherwise the “peace officers” uniform, equipment and demeanor should be as “civilian” in appearance as possible
Eliminate Federal and State Private Prisons
Rationale: To put it succinctly, it is a crime to be able to make money resulting from the indiscretions of the incarcerated, but it is precisely what the Corrections Corporation of America (Note: Renamed Core Civic during 2016 during 2016) does and, even more it is registered on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), has approximately 14,075 employees and assets exceeding $3 billion. Core Civic manages more than 65 state and federal correctional and detention facilities representing 90,000 beds in 19 states inclusive of the District of Columbia.² Additionally, the concept of private prisons emanated from the notion that private rather than public entities were better equipped to manage the geriatric inmate populations, those with mental health issues and infirmities. Even worse prison inmates have for decades been part of the commodity markets in rural areas all over the United States because that is where the prisons are located, with almost no exception. The major struggle connected to the desire to maintain prisons in rural areas is that they have replaced the manufacturing concerns and other businesses that previously existed in such cities and towns. Accordingly, the United States and every state in the union that has prisons populated by inmates beginning in the 1980s, by way of its politicians, has a MORAL OBLIGATION, to cease and desist the incarceration of human beings. Summarily, excessive sentences are not about ensuring public safety, but rather about ensuring jobs for rural cities and towns.
Eliminate Cash Bail
Rationale: In every jail in the United States, unless a detainee was given a ruling of: No Bond by the hearing judge, he should be able to collect the ten percent (10%) cash required and leave the jail and assist with the preparation of his case. Further, those detained in jail have a much greater likelihood of being sentenced to prison because of being subjected to many more restrictive options. Bonding out of jail cannot exist for those who feasibly have the financial wherewithal to do so.
The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences by Marc Maurer (Author) and Ashley Nellis (Author),
The New Press, December 11, 2018 – Statement per reference to (The National Advisory Commission on Criminal
Justice Standards and Goals: established by President Richard Nixon in 1971)