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Transformative Justice: Reimagining the Future of Our Justice System

Updated: Mar 12

Dear Asian Youth,

Over the past few months, the United States has been forced to look closely at the reality of our justice system and how it continually fails to protect the communities that need it most. Time and time again, our justice system disproportionately restricts members of the BIPOC community, unfairly punishes and jails people from historically marginalized backgrounds. Meanwhile, the enforcers (police) continue to intimidate, brutalize, and even murder BIPOC.

Looking at the statistics from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), we find that while the United States only makes up 5% of the world’s total population, but 25% of the world's incarcerated population. Since 1970, our prison population has increased by 700% to a total of 2.3 million people. To put this in perspective, if the entire incarcerated population was a city, it would be the 4th most populous city in the country — only slightly smaller than the city of Chicago.

Broken down statically by race, 1 in 3 Black men are expected to be incarcerated at some point in their lives, followed by 1 in 6 Latinos. White men, on the other hand, have a significantly smaller statistic at 1 in 17.

Women also make up the fastest — growing prison population in the U.S. at approximately 219,000 inmates. This makes up 33% of the female prison population worldwide. The female prison population has grown significantly from 12,300 inmates in 1980 to 182, 270 in 2002. From 1995 to 2005 the female prison population grew by about 4.6% each year.

On top of this, about 60% (twice the number of people in the entire federal prison system) of people sitting in state and local jails have not been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial; most of whom come from low-income backgrounds that cannot afford bail.

To make matters even more complicated, every year, approximately 650,000 men and women re-enter society from prison. But as they get their first taste of freedom, they face nearly 50,000 federal, state, and local laws that restrict their ability to comfortably reintegrate into society. Many states have laws that require those that have committed certain crimes to declare their criminal history on job and housing applications before being interviewed, often reducing their chances of being accepted.

Statistics from the Bureau Of Justice revealed in a study that of released prisoners in 2005, 83% was once again arrested in the following 9 years. 60% of the rearrests occurred four or more years after being released. Ticket and Prison quotas further exacerbate many of these issues. The quotas often incentivize prisons to find even the smallest reason to extend sentences to maintain funding. While ticketing and arrest quotas incentivize cops to “search” for trouble to meet certain “productivity requirements” leading to many arbitrary arrests.

Still, the high rate of recidivism is largely connected to the ridiculous amount of laws that limit a person's ability to reintegrate into society. When a person is released from prison, it is expected that they should have paid for their crimes while incarcerated. We expect them to be able to live a normal life after, yet certain laws make it harder to find jobs, housing, and acquire basic necessities, and pushing those without a support system back into a cycle of poverty and crime.

In an interview with Darris Young, for Pacific Standard, a former inmate released in 2015 following an Obama era prison reform bill. Young served 17 of a 20-year sentence for a non-violent drug charge and was asked about reintegration programs to which he responded, “.

..We're letting 6,000 people out of prison, which is great and I advocate for that, but letting them out of prison without any resources guaranteed to them is akin to, after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed when we kicked all the slaves out of the plantations and said, "You're free," and yet they had nowhere to go and no way to make a living... there needs to be something attached to that, to make sure these 6,000 people will return to housing; to make sure these 6,000 people will be able to get employment; to make sure