A More Equitable Justice System

The American criminal justice system is overdue for serious reform. The United States incarcerates over 20% of the world’s prisoners despite having less than 5% of the world’s population and the incarceration rate has grown more than 500% since the 1970s. More than 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated, and another six million are on probation or parole. People of color and individuals suffering from mental illness and substance abuse are disproportionately represented in our justice system. This over-incarceration wastes taxpayer money and doesn’t make us any safer, while violating fundamental values of justice, fairness, and equality.

Over the last three decades, spending on prisons has increased from $90 billion annually to nearly $297 billion – a 229% increase. Each household in the U.S. pays an average of $2,557 per year to sustain our justice system. Recidivism rates are going up, in part because of the barriers to successful societal re-entry.

In Congress, Jason will fight for justice and equal treatment for all by promoting criminal justice policies that reinvest in efforts to improve law enforcement, reduce incarceration, and strengthen communities. With its pioneering approach to the decriminalization of marijuana, Colorado has led efforts to create a justice system that can better serve Coloradans.

Get Smart about Crime

Mass incarceration in the U.S. is now a human rights issue. Mass incarceration, unequal application of the justice system based on race and class, and the long-term impacts of incarceration on employment, housing, and re-integration point to a criminal justice system in need of reform. Jason supports innovative, data-based reforms such as restorative justice that are designed to keep the public safer and address the underlying causes of crimes.  

In Congress, Jason is fighting for:

  • Better support for law enforcement. By shifting money away from incarceration and towards more funding for law enforcement, communities will be safer. Spending money on more law enforcement officers and better technology is estimated to be four times as effective at reducing crime than the same amount of money invested in incarceration
  • Federal decriminalization of marijuana. Colorado voters decided to decriminalize marijuana use in 2014. Coloradans should not fear federal prosecution for marijuana use, that’s why Jason passed the STATES Act, which would recognize legalization of cannabis and the U.S. state laws that have legalized it. Similarly, the marijuana industry needs access to the banking system to ensure that it can conduct business safely and transparently, which is why Jason cosponsored the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act, which specifies that no provision of the Controlled Substances Act is meant to preempt a state law regarding marijuana.
  • Reduce mandatory minimum sentences. Many Americans in prison today are incarcerated for non-violent offenses that carry harsh and unnecessary mandatory sentences. As a result, we’ve seen a steady expansion of the prison population, which ultimately costs taxpayers billions, and tears apart families and communities. Reducing mandatory minimums will allow judges to consider individual factors to ensure that the punishment fits the crime
  • Stop mass incarceration. Jason wants to reduce crime by freeing up critical resources and allowing law enforcement to focus on strategies that are proven to actually protect our communities. Incarceration is hard on families, particularly partners and children, and solutions that focus on the disparate impact of our justice system on persons of color and low-income persons must be addressed

Improve Outcomes after Incarceration

Nationally, about 77% of those released from prison are rearrested within five years. Research shows that longer sentences actually make recidivism more, not less likely. The deck is stacked against individuals with a criminal conviction who struggle to re-enter the workforce, find stable housing, and maintain a steady paycheck – challenges that greatly increase the chances of recidivism. 

To help solve this problem, Jason is working to:

  • Promote recidivism reduction programs. Programs that provide job training, apprenticeship opportunities, and academic degrees help prepare inmates for life after incarceration and lower the likelihood that they will commit crimes after they are released
  • Partner with employers, nonprofits, and labor unions. Establishing community partnerships will help build pathways to job opportunities for inmates post-release
  • Reduce collateral consequences. For a petty crime, a fine and probation may seem fair, but because there are hundreds of collateral consequences that flow from convictions, that person may lose their job, right to teach, or ability to live in public housing
  • Support efforts to “ban the box.” Preventing employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history in initial job application materials will ensure prospective employees aren’t immediately rejected for the position or deterred from even applying
  • Substantially limit the use of solitary confinement. Colorado has reduced the use of solitary confinement and seen no corresponding spike in violence or assaults at prison facilities. The use of solitary confinement can cause physical and psychological harm and undermines our goals of preparing inmates for reentry into society

Many of those in the criminal justice system suffer from mental illness or substance abuse, and prisons remain ill-equipped to offer treatment and rehabilitation services. 

In Congress, Jason will continue to fight for:

  • Long term treatment for addiction and substance abuse. With the opioid epidemic sweeping our nation, allowing inmates to receive life-saving medications to treat their addiction and put them on a path to recovery will help prevent overdoses and relapses after release
  • Alternatives to incarceration. Many individuals entering the criminal justice system would be better served by our mental health system or substance abuse treatment programs. Supporting effective alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, such as mental health courts or supervised treatment programs, will help reduce the prison population and costs to taxpayers