More than 800 people are on death row for murders they did not commit and billions of dollars are spent each year on corrections-related waste. We should stop wasting money. Here are seven ideas to reform our criminal justice system.
1. Restore mental health screenings for all people in the criminal justice system. But it isn't just prisoners. As Floridian Terry Coons noted in his proposed "one dollar for America" campaign, those on probation, parole and in the justice system who are considered mentally ill often wind up in jails and prisons due to their untreated mental health problems.
"The simple fact of the matter is that this is the problem. The system we have in place doesn't meet the needs of those people. There's all these processes that don't prioritize mental health and the system doesn't spend nearly enough of its resources dealing with people who have issues of mental health and vulnerability. By not addressing it upfront, it actually opens up the door to all kinds of the other problems that we see," Coons said.
(Related: There are 80,000 people who can't afford to pay for mental health treatment while sitting in jail.)
2. Reverse the current federal identification card system. State ID cards can be applied for and issued more quickly in Florida, but states need federal ID card clearances to process Social Security benefits and connect with public assistance programs. So why are we asking those on the federal dole to give their driver's license an additional number?
3. Eliminate the felony murder cap. It's overkill. Cops get charged with murder under certain circumstances, such as when someone died.
4. Tax the rich. First, everyone should be taxed! OK, just the people who can afford it.
(Related: Colorado legalized weed and generated $240 million in revenue from recreational marijuana sales in 2018.)
5. Pass and implement a same-sex marriage amendment. This is simple and simple to pass: It's done in about 15 states already.
6. Stop charging and imprisoning minor drug offenders for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Since 2015 the number of adults behind bars for marijuana-related charges has been cut by 26 percent in Colorado.
7. Adopt a selective war on drugs. Federal and state governments should develop their own policies on how to deal with drug crimes and make them more crime-specific and less, well, generic. Instead of hammering police officers or targeting minorities, police can conduct investigations based on complaints about drug use and complaints from landlords about illegal drug use. Anyone with illegal drug use or dealing on their record, including people in Florida, should be subject to prison time and then social programs like drug and alcohol treatment.
Sometimes it seems like the whole country is waiting for the dreaded Donnie Cochran to step in and rewind the record. But thanks to the Weinstein Company's payments to his legal team, we know the legendary attorney was doing just that before he did it for Sean Combs.
Given what Cochran said, it's clear he knows how to pursue a case, how to frame a battle and how to strategically backpedal. But what we really need in this country is a Cochran, Donny Justice or Cocholistic, with the added key attribute of figuring out how to get a case dismissed and throw away the record.
So what do you suggest to Congress? Give us your ideas in the comments section below.