We make laws as a community that we agree will help each and every one of us survive and flourish in this increasingly treacherous world of ours. In other words, it is essential that we come to a consensus on the goal of punishment for crimes.
Is the goal of punishment to make sure the guilty person never commits the crime again? Is the goal of punishment to make sure someone else who sees the punishment imposed for the crime committed, will not commit that same crime in the future? Or is the goal of punishment to teach the criminal a lesson about their wrongdoing, and change their course of behavior, after their debt has been paid to the community, so they can re-enter society without the threat of further criminal behavior and offering a chance at redemption.
I believe that if punishment both causes the perpetrator to never commit the crime again, understand their wrongdoing, undergo some type of internal change of character and outlook that allows them to re-enter society having both paid their debt to their criminal offense, while at the same time providing an example for other potential criminals that not only demonstrates liberties taken away as a result of such crime as well as providing models of transformation as those who once committed a crime or crimes, re-enters society with a new lease on life.
This is not the way the United States’ Criminal Justice system operates today. White collar crime is punished often with just a monetary fine, while other crimes are punished with jail time. Our system of justice has not been effectively serving its purpose of preventing crime, punishing crime and attempting to rehabilitate the criminals.
Private prisons, where labor is outsourced for profit, have increased 32% since 2000. That combined with inadequate staff, facilities, lack of educational or religious opportunities and overcrowding problems where this country doesn’t have enough jails or prisons for its criminals.
There is a new path forward that deals with the fundamental roots of crime: poverty, mental illness, drug abuse and addiction, sexual abuse, and a lack of adequate financial opportunities for so many in our economically disadvantaged and predominantly black and brown neighborhoods that receive a more aggressive police relationship where the police, our protectors and servants, are treated as the enemy.
As a Forwardist, I recognize that 80% of Americans don’t have even $400 dollars in the bank for an emergency expense. Is it any wonder why people with no money for food, housing or other necessities turn to crime out of necessity, more so than choice.
Most criminals aren’t born criminals. They are repeatedly neglected, overlooked and are often born into situations and neighborhoods and a life that most people cannot even begin to understand. None of this is an excuse for committing a crime. There is absolutely no excuse for criminal behavior, but we are foolish, if we allow that fact to prevent us from deeply examining and forming a plan of action for the deepest root causes of crime, which are poverty, unemployment, drug abuse in addition to political and religious strife. We must address the root causes of the virus of crime.
We must overhaul our inadequate criminal justice system providing punishments for crimes. Why is it that an African American man who steals someone’s television can get 5 to 10 years in prison, when the entire American banking industry broke the law with false promises to millions of innocent homeowners without a single person going to prison.
Why is there such a thing as white collar crime? Isn’t a crime a crime? Is there any reason we make monetary crimes payable by fine, when we make physical crimes punishable by only prison. A company merely being forced to pay a fine for some illegal action or theft of services or digital currency becomes just the cost of doing business. We’ve made it so that white collar crime can just be a line item on a budget with no more penalty paid.
As your next Representative in the House of Representatives, I will fight to keep neighborhoods safe, in both the short and long term by presenting legislation that changes the role of the police officer by forcing them to spend ⅓ of their in the field time on community service, opens a renewed discussion on the goal of criminal punishment and then re-structure the system so that it is more fair, more equitable, serving both the victim’s rights by appropriately punishing the perpetrator justly for the crime, while at the same time offering them a new opportunity for a renewed life after they have served their sentence.
Currently, the United States leads the world in incarcerated citizens per capita, and our prisons are overflowing with individuals that suffer abuses and are not adequately cared for. One does not need to look far, or at a national level to see this. Right here in New York City, Rikers Island jail—despite “promises” to close the facility—daily abuses and atrocities take place. Inadequate facilities, overcrowding, prison guards derelict in their duty to maintain, and rampant violence, are hallmarks of this facility; however, leadership has proven unable or unwilling to solve this glaring injustice. This failure of the justice system is pervasive and has been allowed to occur under Republicans and Democrats alike, with both parties making either empty promises or—worse—decisions that exasperate horrendous conditions.
According to the New York State Comptroller, it costs taxpayers $556,539 to detain one person for one year at Rikers Island. That is an absurd number and if we do the math, it isn’t hard to understand that our entire prison system, from neighborhood to neighborhood, from state to state, needs to be examined with regard to cost per crime, complete with an analysis of how we could better use the out of this world cost of incarceration toward preventing crime BEFORE it happens.
In order to remedy this pervasive problem in American society, there needs to be an overhaul in the criminal justice system that aims to cure the disease, not the symptoms. It is easy to lock individuals up and throw away the key; however, that strategy has time and again proven ineffective at best, and disastrous at worst. Our jails and prisons need to become facilities that are able to both provide justice for crimes, while at the same time providing restorative and rehabilitative justice that seeks to ensure that crime overall is lessened.
Those that are incarcerated must receive punishment for their crimes, but that does not mean that our job as a society ends there. We need to be human, first to the victims of crime, and then, often with more difficulty, also to those who commit the crimes we abhor. Crime does not come from nowhere. It has its roots, usually deep in the criminal’s childhood. We need a different approach to the prison and incarceration system that is more just, more human, more cost effective and more efficient. There can be a new path forward for all of us to make all of our neighborhoods a place where safety is commonplace.
In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, and Erik Gardner as well as undoubtedly numerous more that were never made public, America has opened its eyes to the glaring injustices that minorities experience daily. This racially biased outcome of police arrests and detention has been going on for a long time. Our neighborhoods and communities must be safe from crime. There is no question about that and it is local priority number one.
The priority of safety for all of our citizens must not come with the cost of excessive policing. The issue of over-policing in minority communities, excessive force, and racial profiling have been issues in this country since its inception. While no single measure can fully atone for this injustice, what matters most is that we begin today with my position as New York’s 8th District in the House of Representative. These wrongs must be righted and I will not stop until our streets are safer, our police force becomes a more integrated and accepted part of the community by serving ⅓ of their serving the community at homeless shelters, hospitals, schools, and public parks.
Forwardist Brian Mannix for Congress
- Published by Friends of Brian Mannix for Congress -