The Constitution — the bedrock of America’s democracy — was not America’s first shot at creating a government. Just as one of our nation’s most important founding documents, one of its purposes being to “establish justice,” replaced an earlier and more flawed model. Just as the University of Wisconsin searches for the truth through the long and difficult process of sifting and winnowing, the Democratic Party knows that the status quo is not good enough for Americans seeking recourse in their nation’s justice system.
The Democratic Party sees these imperfections with clear eyes and pushes for important reforms to end the unequal treatment of citizens by the justice system and put an end to cruelty towards prisoners.
One reform the Democratic Party is committed to is reducing or eliminating the use of solitary confinement in prisons.
In 2016, the Obama administration banned juvenile solitary confinement, a practice United Nations Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez described as amounting to torture. While a 2016 special report from the UN found that on any given day, between 80,000 to 100,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the United States.
The Democratic party believes that the goal of incarceration in America should be rehabilitation and social safety, rather than cruelty or degradation. This stands in stark contrast to Republican President Donald Trump, who pardoned and protected a sheriff convicted of illegally detaining immigrants in the absence of criminal charges and who bragged on camera about running a “concentration camp.”
Only one party in America celebrates and protects criminals who abuse and torment detainees — and it’s not the Democratic party.
The Democratic party also supports reducing or eliminating mandatory minimums.
In 2017, President Trump’s then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo requiring federal prosecutors to seek the most severe penalties possible, depriving these lawyers of the discretion that allows them to give accused Americans opportunity for reform or growth. While President Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act in 2018, which made some reductions to these mandatory minimums, it was a very small step. The Democratic Party is ready to take a bigger step, with an overwhelming majority of its presidential primary candidates advocating for eliminating mandatory minimums in some or all cases.
Furthermore, all of the candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination are in support of eliminating the death penalty.
While the Republican Party — ostensibly both “pro-life” and an advocate for limited government — defends the right of the state to murder its citizens in its official platform. The 2016 Democratic platform recognized that the costs to this country, both in terms of the fees taxpayers cover for lengthy trials and the moral cost when “exonerations show a dangerous lack of reliability for … an irreversible punishment,” are far too high to continue a practice that disproportionately targets people of color and the mentally ill.
The Republican Party asks the public to believe that it’s tough on crime, while in the meanwhile prosecutors from the administration’s Justice Department resign to protest the president’s Attorney General interceding personally to protect the criminals who support the President politically.
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A vote for the Democratic Party is a vote in favor of morals — for a party that won’t crack down on impoverished drug offenders but instead is willing to hold the powerful accountable.
Only one party in America currently stands for the rule of law — that all people are equally protected by it and accountable under it. While the Republicans are the party of partisan acquittals, pardons for political allies, and protection for the powerful, the Democratic Party stands for reforms that will improve the lives of all Americans.
When voting this year, Americans should all remember the words spoken by Senate Judiciary Chairman Adam Schiff — “Right Matters.”
Ethan Carpenter ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science. He is the press secretary for the College Democrats of UW-Madison.
Editor’s note: Ethan is a columnist for The Badger Herald. Here, his views strictly represent those of the College Democrats and do not represent the Herald.