Sen. Cory Booker believes in the promise of America, but is “anguished” because “the work of America is not yet done.”
He explains in this week’s Congressional Black Caucus Message to America, “In many ways over my lifetime, we have slipped backwards.”
The New Jersey Senator said, “In just forty years, we have seen our country’s prison population explode.” He added, “The land of the free leads the world in imprisoning its own people.”
Booker went on to say,
“The overwhelming majority of the people we put in prison are non-violent offenders, which makes us a nation five percent of the world’s population, with about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.”
The result of this produces a “terrible impact on our economy.” According to Booker, between the years of 1995 and 2000, the United States built a new prison every ten days, while “our roads and bridges are crumbling, too many of our schools are decaying and inadequate.”
All of this is happening while “we were building gleaming prisons with regularity — costing tax payers billions and billions of dollars.”
Sen. Booker continued by explaining the impact incarceration has on non-violent drug offenders, saying once they are released, they face over 40,000 collateral consequences. These consequences prevent these individuals from “going back to doing productive work — from entering society and being successful.”
“Laws prevent them from getting jobs, business licenses, Pell Grants for education — they fall on hard luck and are even prevented from getting food stamps.”
Without this level of mass incarceration, Sen. Booker says we would have twenty percent less poverty in America.
“There is a better way,” he said. Many states in America are leading the way in criminal justice reform and “It’s about time we, the federal government, follow suit and support the kind of reforms — common sense practical reforms that save taxpayer money, empower people and ensure that we live up to our promise, that we are a nation of freedom and justice for all.”
For more CBC videos, see here.