Seth B. Utah

Criminal Justice Reform

African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population and are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. Something needs to change.

Dear Mr./Madam President,

We live in a time and society where divisiveness, animosity and tension is prevalent between different races, religions, social classes and genders. There is no denying, however, that the minorities of each of these groups often face significantly more discrimination than the majority. One particular source of this discrimination is the government that you are now responsible for and it’s criminal justice system. You are no doubt familiar with the statistics: African Americans make up 35% of the prison population despite only accounting for 12% of all Americans and committing crimes at roughly the same rates as whites*. If this trend continues one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime. As an African American I’ve seen family and friends be convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, be profiled by police officers and be forced to serve sentences longer than the average prisoner. If we truly believe in guaranteeing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all people in this country than we must remove the barriers that limit a select few from truly realizing their God given potential.

Allowing this to continue breeds a culture of distrust between African American communities and the police forces that have sworn to protect them. I won’t pretend to know the solution to this problem because in general, the solution is not clear. That being said, there are many things I believe could be done to help alleviate this issue. The usage of body cameras have been proven to reduce complaints which benefits both police forces and African American communities. Community policing, where the diversity of a neighborhood is reflected by the diversity of their police force, would help many people, children especially, feel more comfortable around police officers. A reform of drug sentencing in which those convicted of drug possession would enter rehabilitation centers instead of prison would limit repeat offenses and help those people become more contributing members of society. Criminal justice reform is perhaps one of the hundreds of important issues you will seek to address during your presidency but I hope that it will be addressed nonetheless. If we can work towards a future where diversity is celebrated instead of persecuted we will be able to unite together and forge a new America in which even the most marginalized are given an equal opportunity to succeed.

*Source: NAACP