Democrats Targeted for Creating, and Now Ignoring, Mass Incarceration Disaster

A new petition released Tuesday calls on Democratic Party leadership to make ending mass incarceration a core part of the party platform.

“So far, both [parties] have fallen short,” reads the petition created by non-partisan public policy institute the Brennan Center for Justice. “Even Democratic Party platforms haven’t merely been silent; they have actually called for policies creating more imprisonment.””

“The statistics are stark: while the United States has 5 percent of the world’s people, we are responsible for a quarter of its prisoners,” the petition notes.

Until recently, Democratic leadership applauded so-called “tough-on-crime” legislation that produced the mass incarceration crisis the U.S. faces today, said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, and Ames Grawert, a counsel in the same program.

The petition is addressed to leaders of both major parties, but particularly calls out the Democratic Party for betraying its legacy of civil rights advocacy by promoting such “tough-on-crime” policies.

And ironically, as the Brennan Center notes, “the Republican Party is set to vote on a policy to reduce imprisonment at their convention,” while the DNC has no such plans. “So where are the Democrats?” Chettiar and Grawert ask.

Critics have long pointed out Democrats’ role in today’s mass incarceration crisis: “Two terms of tough-on-crime Reagan and Bush Republicans added 72 new mandatory minimum statutes; Clinton’s two terms added 116,” as author and broadcaster Laura Flanders noted last year.