Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed abolishing prisons in favor of “just alternatives to incarceration” in a series of tweets Monday.
“Mass incarceration is our American reality,” New York Democrat wrote. “It is a system whose logic evolved from the same lineage as Jim Crow, American apartheid, & slavery. To end it, we have to change. That means we need to have a real conversation about decarceration & prison abolition in this country.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was reacting to a tweet by comedian Chelsea Handler, highlighting the story of Deandre Somerville, a 21-year-old black man who was sentenced sent to jail for 10 days because he’d slept through jury duty. Ms. Handler and others claimed that race played a factor in the man’s harsh sentencing.
Weighing in, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez recalled a conversation she had with a woman who was jailed as a teen and kept in solitary confinement.
“Yesterday morning I spoke with a woman who was thrown in Rikers as a teenager,” she tweeted. “Put in solitary confinement for MONTHS, aka torture. Force-fed pills. The conditions were so bad, she too had drank out of toilets. A cage is a cage is a cage. And humans don’t belong in them.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez later further explained her “prison abolition” stance after apparent backlash from “the right.”
“I know the term ‘prison abolition’ is breaking some people’s brains. The right is already freaking out,” the congresswoman wrote. “Yet the US incarcerates more than anywhere in the world. We have more than enough room to close many of our prisons and explore just alternatives to incarceration.
“First of all, many people in jail or in prison don’t belong there at all. Whether it’s punitive sentencing for marijuana possession or jailing people for their poverty & letting the rich free through systems like cash bail, we wrongly incarcerate far, far too many people,” she continued. “Secondly, our prison & jail system is so large bc we use them as de facto mental hospitals, homeless shelters, & detox centers instead of *actually* investing in… mental health, housing, edu, & rehab. If we invested meaningfully, what do you think would happen to crime?
“Lastly, people tend to say ‘what do you do with all the violent people?’ as a defense for incarcerating millions,” she concluded. “Our lawmaking process means we come to solutions together, &either way we should work to an end where our prison system is dramatically smaller than it is today.”