Calling on Congress to propose the 28th amendment.
Calling on Congress to propose the 28th amendment.
Why this petition matters
If you look past the endless rhetoric from an alarming number of "leaders" and the support from an even more alarming number of Americans who lack the most basic sense of compassion, you will see that our laws are excessive and our methods of punishment are cruel and while certainly no longer unusual, do not benefit society in any meaningful way. There are many laws that are simply criminalizing personal decisions that don't harm others but when real crimes are committed those arrested tend to be the most disadvantaged among us and some of the people who are hurting the most in our country. As human beings, we all struggle in our own ways and most-everyone, including those who commit crimes, wants to be good at their core in spite of their mistakes- no matter how bad they mess up. As Bryan Stevenson puts it in his must-read, page-turning book titled Just Mercy, "Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done."
The United States Constitution is an outline of our principles: the soul of our country that is supposed to guide us in terms of how we govern as a republic of the people. Over the history of civilization, we have continually learned that much of what we know is wrong, and the Constitution is a fluid document with mechanisms for change for that exact reason. We need an amendment to the constitution that will empower brilliant legal minds to challenge the current legal system in ways that will slow the damage being done to the incarcerated population. I call upon the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and every state legislature to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution to revise Article VIII of the Bill of Rights to now read:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor shall the United States impose punishment that is cruel and can be demonstrated to have not positively contributed to rehabilitation.”
The 8th amendment in its original form prohibits cruel and unusual punishment because at that time the realities of prison today would have been considered cruel and unusual. Now that deprivation of liberty for excessively long periods of time and extreme punishment by the physical and psychological torture imposed by prison environments has become normalized, we must make it clear in our Constitution that we don't want the usual punishment anymore. Research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that close to eighty percent of prisoners end up getting arrested again within nine years of release. Our current "rehabilitation strategies" aren't working if most prisoners aren't able to avoid getting trapped in a cycle of poverty and arrested again- plain and simple.
When people are sent to prison they aren’t sent to be rehabilitated, they are sent to be physically and psychologically tortured or even killed. If/when people are sent back into the real world, many have suffered severe psychological damage. I heard a man who has been released from prison recently say that he could no longer feel joy. Is that our idea of positive rehabilitation? There is nothing worse than being stripped of the most fundamental feeling of humanity. Depriving someone of their liberty is punishment enough; we don't need to deprive people of opportunities to improve their ability to cope with mental health challenges like addiction, anxiety, depression, and anger- all caused by unique challenges presented to each individual. We need more people willing to work on unique human-focused solutions to actually rehabilitate people. Along with strong support for mental health, rehabilitation needs to include intense, creative educational support and skills training to make up for the failures of public education. There is absolutely no reason why people should be sitting around wasting away their life while imprisoned.
American Government was founded on the principle that when the Government is attacking the liberty of our fellow citizens it is our job to stand up and fight against it. Supporting this amendment is a moral imperative because once written into the supreme law of the land it will empower so many people to make tangible changes. There are so many bright thinkers in this country and you don’t have to be an expert in anything to think of solutions for healing people. All it takes is compassion and being open to new ideas as opposed to our old methods that cause nothing but pain, suffering, and trauma. They have decimated the African American community in particular with a third of Black men in the country being locked away at any given moment and roughly half having been incarcerated in their lifetimes.
I say from now on we don't leave anybody behind. The language of this enhanced amendment will ensure that we never settle for things that don't work (the definition of insanity); it will push every American to search their minds for ideas that will move us forward in terms of our ideals of empathy and realizing our vision that all people have the potential to be good and successful if they have the proper tools and something to be passionate about.
Signing this petition, sharing it with as many people as possible and pushing yourself to think of ideas that are principled and will really help people are some of the most important steps you can take toward overcoming the injustice in our country. Always do your part as an American to be involved in active debate and in times where hate and anger are dominating, remember to be open-minded and let the facts and bright ideas speak louder than the status quo. This is a start toward systemic change but we need people to put their heads together and find solutions to other pillars of racial injustice such as concentrated poverty, de facto school segregation, subconscious racial bias, along with any other problem we can tackle as a society.