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November 12 2018

Millennial Monday: Highlighting Criminal Justice Reform in Three States

by Betsy Pearson

So often, midterms results are only about counting congressional seats and governors’ races. But this past midterm cycle also featured many ballot initiatives and referendums in the states that are worth highlighting.

Specifically, these 2018 midterms brought about big wins in the criminal justice reform category. These laws impact millennials in a great way. In fact, a bipartisan initiative to reduce US prison population—Cut50—reports “Of the 2.3 million people in prison or jail nationwide, more than half are under 35.”

Of the many successful criminal justice reform measures, here are three of my favorite:

In Alabama’s Cullman and Morgan Counties, 85% of voters passed legislation discontinuing the longtime practice letting sheriffs keep excess food money for prisons—which ended up leading the sheriffs to feed the prisoners as cheaply as possible. Though not all sheriffs were involved in these schemes, it was a prevalent enough issue that one federal judge sent a former sheriff to jail citing “the practice led to inadequate nutrition for prisoners.” Another sheriff revealed in released tax forms that he profited $672,392 from the jail kitchen fund.

Another traditionally red state, Utah, voted to approve medical marijuana. Proposition 2 includes specific restrictions for patients, physicians, and dispensaries. Deputy Director at the Marijuana Policy Project says the win is a sign of the broad support for these laws across the US, “Even in socially conservative states like Utah, most voters recognize marijuana has significant medical value, and they believe it should be available to patients who could benefit from it.” In addition Michigan and Missouri also had cannabis related victories.

The Voting Restoration Amendment passed in Florida, which gives felons back their right to vote after they serve their time—excluding those convicted of murder and felony sex offenses. Before this victory, convicted felons had to wait five years, apply, then wait for a clemency board to vote on it. The amendment was supported by a diverse group of backers, ranging from Ben & Jerry’s to Koch affiliate, Freedom Partners. Similarly, in North Carolina voters agreed to pass legislation which would automatically restore voting rights to felons—another traditionally red state.

As these states have shown, criminal justice reform can be a bipartisan issue. Lets hope that more states follow the example set in the 2018 midterm cycle and enact legislative change on the local level that impacts peoples lives directly.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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