Submitted by the Baltimore Ethical Society and Passed at the 100th AEU Assembly
The American Ethical Union supports individuals in living ethical and purposeful lives based on reason, compassion, and a commitment to the fundamental worth and dignity of each human being. We believe these are the foundations of a humane society, and therefore, that we must ensure that our public institutions, including all elements of the Criminal Justice system, honor these central pillars of common ethics.
We Affirm That:
- People who have committed a crime have the same human worth as all people and are entitled to dignity and access to employment, housing, voting rights, and cultural participation.
- Our current criminal justice system discriminates against people of color, and targets the weak and vulnerable in our society, including immigrants and people dealing with drug addiction, mental illness, or poverty.
- Empowering people to bring out their unique best through compassion and evidence-based assistance are more effective means of reducing crime and increasing public safety than the threat of punishment. All human beings can change, and are more likely to change positively when supported socially.
- Evidence-based community policing strategies have been shown to reduce crime and are more consistent with the values of a democratic society, promoting social harmony and with honoring the dignity of all people. The police should not focus exclusively on monitoring and suppressing behavior.
- Neuroscience has demonstrated that persons under the age of 21 have not fully developed the brain structure necessary for consistent impulse control, good judgment, and decision-making. Therefore, they should not be treated, charged, or sentenced as adults.
- Using incarceration/detention as a revenue stream for the state or local government, or putting for-profit corporations at the heart of the criminal justice system is fundamentally inconsistent with maintaining a fair and just system.
Therefore, we call on our legislators and government officials to:
- End the use of incarceration or detention for all persons convicted or charged with non-violent, victimless offenses. Replace these methods with alternative community solutions that achieve the desired outcome and evidence-based rehabilitative and community integration programs like Maryland Public Safety Compacts, which are humane and shown to reduce recidivism.
- End the use of detention for illegal immigrants who have not committed a violent crime.
- End the use of solitary confinement.
- Treat drug use offenses as a public health concern under the direction of medical care, and repeal laws that bring drug use into the criminal justice system. Treat other drug offenses, including possession and sale, as misdemeanors or infractions.
- Eliminate barriers and increase opportunities for previously incarcerated citizens reintegrating into society, including:
- repealing laws that revoke or restrict the voting rights of citizens who are convicted of crimes, including felonies;
- automatically expunge the records of people charged but not convicted, and void all fees or financial penalties;
- allow the chance to expunge misdemeanors and infractions from criminal records after end of parole period, and void all fees or financial penalties.
- Reorganize police departments and their goals using evidence-based methods such as those detailed in the national report from Policy Link and the Advancement Project.
- End the practice of charging or sentencing individuals under 21 as adults under all circumstances.
- Remove for-profit interests and revenue streams from operations and ancillary operations of incarceration/detention systems.
. Johnson, SB et al. 2009. Adolescent Maturity and the Brain: The Promise and Pitfalls of Neuroscience Research in Adolescent Health Policy. J Adolesc Health. 45 (3): 216-221.
 Harris West, M. et al. 2001. Community-Centered Policing: A Force for Change. A Report by
POLICYLINK In Partnership with the ADVANCEMENT PROJECT.