Passage would be first step on a long road to racial and economic justice
Michigan – Bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing the nation’s mushrooming prison population was introduced in Washington DC. The “Criminal Justice Reform and Corrections Act of 2015” would reduce mandatory sentences such as “Three strikes” rules and 10 year minimums for nonviolent felonies.
“Senator Schumer stated that this is in part about not ‘wasting lives.’ Senator Schumer is absolutely correct and this is long overdue.” says Majyck D, a Kalamazoo radio personality and advocate for criminal justice reform. “To say, too many lives, especially of people of color, have been wasted by our sentencing laws, is an understatement. “
Majyck D is currently working with Michigan United, a statewide social justice organization, on a campaign to pass a series of bills around youth justice in Michigan, including removing 17 year old children from adult facilities and raising the age of adult responsibility from 17 to 18 years old.
“This is a solid and necessary move forward. But this isn’t a panacea.” says Majyck D. “We’ve got a lot more work to do.”
A lot of that work involves thinking outside the box: both the cells the convicts live in and the boxes they must check when they get out. “In order for our nation to rise as a beacon of justice, resources to dissuade criminal activity in the first place, to build actual rehabilitation while incarcerated, to educate offenders, families and communities on successful reintegration are absolutely necessary.” says Pastor Barry Petrucci, Portage Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.
Petrucci thinks a great start for that reintegration would be a national policy to ‘Ban the Box’. Often, applicants for jobs must check a box indicating if they have a felony of any kind on their record. “Ban the Box” legislation would prohibit criminal background checks as a requirement for most jobs. This, proponents say, would make it easier for residents returning from prison to find gainful employment and less likely they will reoffend.
Michigan United is a broad, statewide coalition working to reform our broken immigration system, advance housing justice, protect the rights of low-wage workers and develop leadership.