It's time to end Mass Incarceration

They say that the first step in correcting a problem is understanding it exists and clearly saying so. Like other reformers, I have identified mass incarceration as the most important issue in criminal justice reform today.

How do we define mass incarceration? In the simplest terms, we have too many people in jails and prisons. This does not mean we do away with jails or prisons. Of course, we will always need them. Mass incarceration means we have too many low-level offenders who are no danger to themselves or others whose incarceration is actually harming them as individuals and doing nothing to make our community safer.

The United States has more than 2 million people in prison - more than any other country in the world. Every study shows that our criminal justice system has built-in bias that disproportionately incarcerates the poor and minorities.

In the 1990s we began using diversion programs to help people regain their lives and avoid incarceration. We kept them out of jails and prisons by offering them court-supervised programs of treatment and rehabilitation, including those with treatable mental illnesses. The results were astonishingly good: reduction of repeat offenses, significant savings for taxpayers, individuals who were on the brink of self-destruction instead turning their lives around and contributing to society. But diversion programs are not enough. They helped us begin thinking about our justice system in a new way, but we simply cannot process enough people through diversion programs to adequately deal with mass incarceration.

We need to look at who is prosecuted and for what offenses. We need to look at sentencing. We need to look at the length of probationary terms. We need to reform our bail bond system to abolish pre-trial detention of those who are not a flight risk and sit in jail only because they are poor. We also need to address privately managed prisons and remove the profit motive from our prison system.

When I take office, I will submit a comprehensive written plan within 90 days to deal with mass incarceration. Mass incarceration is a critical problem in America and in North Texas, and I will make it a priority.


John Creuzot

Democratic Nominee for Dallas County District Attorney