Riverside County, CA – Soon after Governor Newsom announced the halt of California’s death penalty, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin shares a repulsive social media post on Facebook. This act shows why Riverside County leads in the death penalty and is ignoring the flaws and injustices of the current criminal justice system.
Given the significant injustices inherent in the criminal justice system, state and local social justice advocates have formed the “Justice Table” in Riverside County in an effort to push the current system closer to true justice.
Our criminal justice system in this nation is broken, disproportionately targeting poor communities and people of color. The Justice Table is designed to bring stakeholders to the table to hold the District Attorney, the Sheriff, Probation, and the County Supervisors accountable for providing transparency, meting out punishment fairly and humanely, and offering real opportunities for rehabilitation and second chances. Additionally, given that jails and prisons have become the primary places to treat mental illness and to respond to homelessness, the Justice Table is advocating for treatment rather than incarceration.
America represents only 5% of the world’s population yet over 25% of the world’s prison population. Our nation has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The numbers don’t lie. A recent study stated that 9,685 people from Riverside County are incarcerated in state prisons. The percentage of incarcerated individuals from Riverside County exceeds that of the state: according to 2016 statistics, 11.97% of men from Riverside are incarcerated, compared to 9.25% for the State of California. The United States system of incarceration has proven to be particularly problematic in terms of racial and income disparities. Unfortunately, Riverside County follows these trends. The work of the Justice Table is to bring attention to these problems so that we can begin to correct them.
There are a number of organizations represented in the Justice Table that are involved in criminal justice work in various ways. Some of the campaigns include:
Reducing harsh prison sentences
Changing the drug sentencing policy surrounding the war on drugs
Prioritizing rehabilitation over incarceration
Altering policies surrounding food assistance programs and voting rights for previously incarcerated people
Changing minimum sentencing laws
Dismantling the school to prison pipeline
Ensuring the a person’s criminal history doesn’t prevent them from accessing quality housing