Presidential Campaign

Millennials expect criminal justice reform from the next president


Just days before we elect our next president, a question that many pundits and experts are trying to answer is which candidate is going to win the fight for the hearts and minds of millennials.

The truth is, in many ways, both candidates already lost. And millennials lost, too. If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump wanted to win over my generation, they needed to engage with us on the issues that we care about 

{mosads}It’s not enough to roll out celebrities for “get out the vote” concerts or have a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live. Millennials know pandering when they see it. And they’ve seen way too many politicians try to avoid the tough issues.

Take criminal justice reform for example — an issue that I hear about more than any other when speaking with young professionals, college students, and families across the country. 

Polls show that the state of the criminal justice system is one of the top concerns of young people. Growing up in an era where politicians were eager to prove they were “tough on crime,” millennials have witnessed the devastating consequences of mass incarceration.

There are currently 2.3 million Americans locked in jails and prisons across the country. On a per capita basis, we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. The cost to taxpayers of keeping so many people in prison is staggering: about $80 billion per year.

Millennials rightly believe that this is a crisis that impacts every community and must be addressed at the highest levels of government. Yet, we’ve heard virtually nothing of substance from either presidential candidate.

In a year of partisan division, it would have been refreshing for our future leaders to focus on what brings us together, as opposed to what splits us apart.  My organization, Vote America Now is trying to lead that discussion.

Last week in Baltimore, I was joined by representatives from Koch Industries, the National Urban League and the Maryland State Legislature to discuss how criminal justice reform can strengthen relations and trust in communities driven apart by tragedy. The conversation was substantive, engaging, and we brought together people from all backgrounds and perspectives.

Right now, there is legislation in Congress, the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015, that would alleviate the prison population by reducing certain mandatory minimum sentences imposed on nonviolent drug offenders. It would also give judges more discretion to impose sentences below the mandatory minimum for low-level drug offenders, making sure that the punishment fits the crime.

This legislation should be a key priority in the first 100 days of the new administration. In doing so, the next president would send a clear message that they are serious about solving important problems and bringing the country together. It would also help bridge the gap that will exist between millennials and the next administration. 

Times are changing. The way to reach millennials is to engage them on the substantive issues they care about. The next president should start with criminal justice reform.

Chris Prudhome is the president Of Vote America Now. He moderated nine presidential town-halls and is a leader in criminal justice reform.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.
Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Millenial votes Presidential Election 2016 Young voters

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