A friend of mine says we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.
That’s the first thing I thought about when I saw the news about Paul Manafort’s sentencing last night. After prosecutors recommended 19 to 24 years in prison, Manafort got sentenced to less than four.
Meanwhile, there are people from neighborhoods like mine who get locked up longer for doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing.
The next president should be the one to fix this.
Yesterday, I introduced the Next Step Act — when we pass it, this bill will be the most ambitious criminal justice reform in decades. It would make serious and substantial reforms to sentencing guidelines, prison conditions, law enforcement practices and training, and re-entry efforts for people who are incarcerated.
Last year, I was so proud to lead a bipartisan group of senators to pass landmark criminal justice reforms that are now the law of the land.
But that’s only the beginning of this fight. We have a system that burdens families and fractures entire communities. And I’ve seen in my own neighborhood how it inflicts poverty through over-policing and over-sentencing.
The punishing reality is that there are more African American men under criminal supervision today than there were enslaved in 1850. And the negative impacts that has — on individuals, on families, on entire communities — are vast and obvious. From being turned down for jobs to being denied bank loans to being banned from getting food stamps, the American Bar Association points to 40,000 collateral consequences that follow you for the rest of your life if you have a criminal conviction — even for a non-violent offense.
FORTY. THOUSAND. Think about that.
The bill I introduced yesterday would work to lower mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses, give formerly incarcerated people the right to vote, and reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses from 18-to-1 to 1-to-1.
The scales of justice in America haven’t ever been balanced, but if we can come together to pass this legislation, we can finally restore justice to our justice system. That is what it means to dream big.
Thank you — this means so much,