North Carolina is like the rest of America in many ways. Our biases and blind spots are similar to what we see in other states, and our instinct to “lock ‘em up” is very much alive and well. Because of that instinct, prisons and criminal justice expenses have exploded to become the third largest budget item for our state. To get a handle on this growing and ineffective use of public money, these first principles should apply.
- End the war on drugs. The war on drugs stands as one America’s most spectacular public policy failures of all time. In North Carolina, we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars in pursuit of a policy that does nothing to reduce drug use, while clogging our courts and jails. It’s time to decriminalize and tax marijuana.
- Guns. I support the US Constitution, including the 2nd Amendment, but I do not believe assault weapons have any legitimate place in civilized society. Then again, I’m not sure we actually live in a civilized society. That said, we do live in a society dominated by political cowards. Until we change the make up of Congress, North Carolina should butt out of the gun debate.
- Mandatory sentencing. Our legal system may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darn effective when we have good judges in place. We should let them do their jobs when it comes to sentencing.
- Capital punishment. I might support capital punishment if I believed it could be imposed without racial bias. But the evidence proves that race does play a factor in who is charged, found guilty, and sentenced to death. We are fallible beings. Execution is an act we cannot undo. All that said, if North Carolina decides to go forward with the death penalty, it should be carried out in full public view.
- No private prisons. When private companies can lobby legislators and then profit from laws that lead to more incarceration, something is wildly out of balance. Prisons should be owned and operated by We the People, not by private companies.