Criminal Justice and Policing Reform

Whether we’re Black, white, or brown, living in a small town or a big city, we all want our families to be whole and our communities to be vibrant.

Mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex are tearing families and communities apart, especially communities of color. People entrusted to serve and protect our communities target, detain and even kill Black people like George Floyd, Tamir Rice, and Breonna Taylor, and too many others. This is a problem right here in Vermont. We have one of the most disproportionate incarceration rates of Black youths in the country.

As a Vermont State Senator, I’ve led the way in addressing the urgent need for criminal justice and police reform. I’ve fought for justice and equity at every turn, championing legislation that creates systems for police accountability and ends life without parole sentences for juveniles. I’ve led on legislation to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and end the use of suspensions and expulsions for children under eight. But there is still so much more work to do. We must reimagine and rebuild our justice systems so that we truly prioritize safety for all.

Marijuana Legalization and Ending the War on Drugs

The War on Drugs has failed to make our communities safer. Instead, it disproportionately placed communities of color behind bars. We must create better solutions to address addiction and embrace a public health model that meets the needs of those most impacted by these disastrous policies.

In the Senate, I will support the decriminalization of all substances. However, while marijuana legalization is a necessary first step, it must be paired with structural changes. That includes the expungement of records, the pardoning of anyone incarcerated for marijuana offenses, and the active inclusion of those with prior marijuana-related offenses in the legal market. In addition, I support investing in public-health-based programs, ending mandatory minimums, and stopping programs that give local police stations military-grade weapons to be used in our communities. 

Investing in Public Safety 

When I was 13, I was profiled by the police while walking home with a friend and arrested without explanation. We were detained most of the night, unable to call our families and without legal representation, while the officers bragged about receiving overtime pay. Unfortunately, this story is all too common in America, especially for communities of color, and we need systemic reform to hold those in positions of power accountable. 

In tackling the injustices of our criminal justice system, we can start by finding effective alternatives to policing and incarceration at all levels. I support investing in mental-health professionals who are best equipped to handle emergency calls. We must also disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and invest in restorative justice programs that provide children with the support they need to thrive. In addition, we need to end the inhumane practices that keep people incarcerated and eliminate cash bail and the criminalization of poverty. Poor people should not be incarcerated based on their inability to pay.

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