Parents should not fear for their children’s safety every time they leave the house. We must address the root causes of crime: poverty, drug addiction, mental illness, and lack of economic and educational opportunity. The opioid epidemic, sex trafficking, and violent crime are at crisis levels. However, increased policing without serious reform is not a solution. It’s time we professionalize, not militarize, law enforcement and develop a community-oriented police force.
Address Root Causes: The best approach to crime is to prevent it by addressing the underlying conditions that are shown to foster the cycle of violence like poverty, drug addiction, mental health, and lack of economic opportunity. Diverting more significant resources here will make our streets safer.
Drug Addiction: If we treat addiction as a disease and not a crime, we can unclog our prisons and help our fellow citizens stay clean. We should continue to hold drug companies accountable but not punish the addicts with a life behind bars.
Sex Trafficking: Louisville has reached a crisis point with sex trafficking. It’s most apparent during Derby, but it impacts us all year. It’s long overdue that we stop treating the exploited women (often underage girls from broken homes) like criminals and instead pursue those exploiting and abusing them.
Mental Health: Nearly half of the people in jail have a mental health diagnosis, and over one-quarter in prison have severe conditions. If we are going to prevent recidivism, we need to provide better treatment both in our facilities and out in public. The investment will not only keep us all safe but will save us money.
Job Training and Education in Prison: Though it takes time and resources to provide job training and education, it is far more costly to send the same individuals back to prison over and over. We must invest in giving everyone the tools to lead a fruitful life free from crime while still holding people accountable for their actions.
Bail Reform: Bail is intended to ensure the accused shows up to trial and that no one is hurt in the meantime. The question should never be, “How much justice can the accused afford?” The only questions we should be asking are, “Is the accused a flight risk?” and, “Is the accused a risk to themselves or others?” Most people in jail have no prior convictions, are not considered a flight risk, and are not accused of a serious crime. With so many people dying in jail awaiting trial, we should stop jailing people for most non-violent crimes and divert the resources to keep only those at risk behind bars.
Police Reform: The more we learn about our police recruiting and training, the clearer it becomes that we need more implicit-bias training and use-of-force training. We should strive to professionalize, not militarize, the police.
Legalize Marijuana: There are countless reasons to legalize cannabis, not the least of which is that our criminal justice system is clogged with people whose only offense is possession of marijuana. Black and Brown people are five times as likely to be prosecuted for it. Legalizing marijuana would free up resources and allow our criminal justice system to focus on more serious crimes. It would curtail organized crime, create new jobs in several industries throughout the state, provide tremendous revenue for our public schools, and help those suffering from opioid addiction and various medical and psychiatric illnesses.
Automatic Expungements: People who have served their time and gone an additional five years without issue should have their records automatically expunged, unburdening them of the complicated and expensive process and allowing them to find work, and housing, and participate more fully in society. One-tenth of all Kentuckians and one-third of all Black men currently can’t get a good job or buy a house due to a prior conviction, adding to the workforce and housing crisis. With expungement comes voting rights restoration, providing these citizens a buy-in on our system.