Institutional racism is the root cause of the school-to-prison pipeline and we must commit ourselves to ending it. Discriminatory sentencing practices are also disproportionately impacting people of color. I will fight to close the opportunity gaps within our district -- and state. And, I will work to make our education system more culturally competent, so that every student is given the same opportunities to succeed. No longer can we sit idly by and allow private corporations to profit from discriminatory punishment that contributes to a growing prison population that has grown by 500% nationwide over the past 36 years.
As a former board member of the Legal Rights Center, I know that we must work to reduce criminal sentences, reform the default use of incarceration, and shift our criminal justice system towards one that embraces rehabilitation and increased screening for mental health issues. Prison time should be used to rehabilitate offenders, to provide training and education so that they can re-enter society and find meaningful employment, reducing their chances of re-offending.
I have a been a strong supporter of the Ban the Box legislation, passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2013, making employers choose job candidates on the basis of skills and qualifications, not past convictions. Labor and housing discrimination keeps rehabilitated citizens from contributing to their communities and I believe having a criminal record should not define a person’s life.
I believe that upon return to a community, a citizen is entitled to all the opportunities of any other community member. This includes voting, a right you earn as a citizen of this country. However, more than 47,000 Minnesotans are currently denied this right. By serving their time and paying restitution, my belief is that they deserve to be reintegrated into their communities without loss of their voting rights. This extends to all previously incarcerated citizens, regardless of probation status. Current laws keep rehabilitated citizens silent, and is a form of voter suppression. Voting is a real and symbolic way for those previously incarcerated to re-affirm their connection with the community and to empower them to work for positive change. Research shows that returning citizens who vote are less likely to offend again.
When elected, I will work on re-evaluating our criminal justice system at all levels, including our sentencing guidelines, investing in restorative justice programs, restoring the vote, and reallocating funds towards mental health and drug rehabilitation programs.