The issues with America’s criminal justice system

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Compared to the U.S. population, Blacks are overrepresented in jails, state and federal prisons, life and life without parole sentences and death penalty sentences. (Graph/ Peter Wagner)

This article is by guest writer Carolina Isabella Sanchez-Torres.

Today, the United States incarcerates its citizens more than any other country around the world. To put that into perspective, according to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul the United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. These mass incarceration rates have sparked a nationwide controversy and led to a much needed movement for criminal justice reform in the U.S.

Many argue that mass incarceration disproportionately impacts the poor, people of color and in fact does not make our communities safer. Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham explains, if you’re struggling to provide for your family or are a person of color, you’re more likely to be sentenced to time in prison, for a longer period of time than a white person with the same offense. Funding this broken system is $87 billion, which has increased 1000% from the $7.4 billion spent on jails and prisons in 1975.

Many argue that more incarceration does not actually deter violent crime rates. Prisons are overcrowded, jails are violent and both are being run incorrectly. Because of the way these facilities are being operated, most people leave traumatized, mentally ill and in a worse condition than they entered. Additionally, some children are being incorporated into the system as well. Children as young as eight years old have been prosecuted as adults and sent to an adult detention center.

At 16, Cyntoia Brown was sentenced to life in prison for shooting a man she was sold to after being sex trafficked as a 15-year-old girl. Cyntoia Brown is an African American woman who was simply defending herself in a situation where she felt unsafe, something protected under the United States constitution. She served 15 years of her life sentence and applied for clemency and after a long fight, she was finally released from prison Jan. 7, 2019.

On the other hand, Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer, was found guilty of three felonies; all related to rape on an unconscious, intoxicated woman. Brock Turner, a 19-year-old white rapist was only sentenced to six months in prison. He was even released three months early and now works a normal job at a manufacturing firm. The different outcomes of both these cases just further support the need for change in the American criminal justice system.

Pioneering this movement for criminal justice reform is none other than ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s. The company’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, have never been shy of hiding their political beliefs. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s hires formerly incarcerated people and pays these employees higher than the set minimum wage in their state. For this reason, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tends to be priced higher than their competitors. In addition, the company has openly supported the Black Lives Matter movement, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and climate change. Now being added to this list is criminal justice reform. Ben & Jerry’s just announced the release of a new flavor called “Justice ReMix’d” cinnamon and chocolate ice cream with cinnamon bun dough and spicy fudge brownies. Despite the bitterness of the greatly unequal criminal justice, aiding criminal justice reform can taste sweet, one ice cream tub at a time.

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