Repairing our Criminal Justice System

The Brennan Center, a non-partisan law institute, recognizes that “America’s approach to punishment often lacks a public safety rationale, disproportionately affects minorities, and inflicts overly harsh sentences.”

We need to rethink our approach to public safety and focus on reforming our criminal justice system with evidence-based solutions that reduce crime and ensure justice for all. We make our communities safer and save taxpayer money by strengthening community and family services that lift people up, not by imprisoning millions of people.

Celeste believes penalties for people convicted of crimes should be commensurate with the crime and must include opportunity for reform, rehabilitation, and education. Importantly, the notion of what’s fair or commensurate must be equally applied without racial, social or economic bias. It is imperative that we rid our judicial system of the systemic discrimination that leads to longer and harsher sentences for people of color and people with low income.

America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world with more than 2 million people in prison. We spend more than $70 billion a year imprisoning, detaining, and supervising people. Celeste believes the most effective way to fight crime is by fighting the economic inequities and diseases of despair that can lead to criminal activity. We reduce recidivism by restoring dignity and opportunities to ex-offenders who have served their sentence and deserve a second chance.

Studies show that for every $1 invested in early childhood education, $7 is saved because those children are far less likely to commit crimes or be arrested later in life. Celeste would rather invest money in our young children to give them bright futures, then spend money later to feed, house and imprison adults.

Celeste supports overhauling our overly-punitive system in favor of a criminal justice system that:

  • Ends qualified immunity for police officers which is frequently used to shield them from facing civil liability for allegations of brutality and misconduct

  • Requires de-escalation and racial sensitivity training for law enforcement officers

  • Ends the federal government's 1033 Program providing military weaponry to local police departments

  • Calls for external fully independent investigations when an individual is killed by law enforcement

  • Mandates law enforcement officers use dash and body cameras

  • Ends the school-to-prison pipeline by ensuring all kids have access to quality education that meets their needs; does everything it can to limit law enforcement intervention in school-based discipline; and gives schools more counselors, social workers, and nurses than police officers

  • Ends for-profit prisons who profiteer off the incarcerated and taxpayers

  • Ends modern day “debtors prisons” by eliminating cash bail and exorbitantly high court fees and fines

  • Ends mandatory minimum sentences

  • Restores the federal death penalty ban

  • Focuses on preventing recidivism by requiring prisoners to be given educational and job training opportunities

  • Restores the voting rights of citizens who have been released from prison and are living freely in the community

  • “Bans the box” by prohibiting employers from using a check box on applications asking whether an applicant has a criminal record

  • Legalizes marijuana at the federal level, levies taxes on it to be used only for mental health and addiction treatment services, and expunges past marijuana possession convictions