Justice and Civil Rights

As a nation founded on the principles of freedom and equality, our laws and government should treat every American fairly — regardless of their race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, or any other quality. Unfortunately, those founding principles have not always been applied consistently to women, people of color, immigrants, and many other groups. To ensure that our nation lives up to its ideals, we must ensure that our laws, our justice system, and every other part of our government offers equal rights and protects them for all Americans.  

The United States prides itself on being “the land of the free,” yet our incarcerated population is the highest in the world. With over 700,000 people entering prisons each year and an additional 9 million Americans going through local jails, prisons are overcrowded, and incarcerated people do not receive the resources needed to ensure a smooth transition into society. As a result, 67.8% of ex-convicts re-enter prison within three years. Our criminal justice system prioritizes punishment over rehabilitation and is in desperate need of reform. 

Throughout my career as a public servant, I have been committed to fixing our broken criminal justice system. As the Majority Leader in the New Jersey State Assembly, I sponsored a legislative package that enables formerly incarcerated individuals to safely enter the workforce after completing their sentencing. This historic piece of legislation has become a blueprint for legislative efforts concerning prison re-entry nationwide. 

My dedication to criminal justice reform has continued throughout my time in Congress. In 2021, I introduced the End For-Profit Prisons Act to eliminate financial incentives for over-incarceration. Additionally, I introduced the Drug Policy Reform Act, which would finally end the War on Drugs by directing the government to treat substance use as a health issue, not a criminal issue. I’ve also co-sponsored the MORE Act, which would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level.  

With a focus on rehabilitation, recidivism reduction, and racial justice, I am working to build a system where the rule of law applies to all Americans equally. Our criminal justice system was built on a foundation of white supremacy, and while significant progress has been made, much work remains to be done to ensure that ours is a nation in which justice is truly blind. The NAACP reports that  one out of three Black boys and one out of six Latino boys can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes. Furthermore, as evidenced by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and subsequent police killings of Black Americans, simply existing while Black can dangerous. Policing is deeply intertwined with the carceral system, and we must dismantle the structural racism present in both institutions. To that end, I launched and serve as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Policing, Constitution, and Equality Task Force. I’m committed to making our justice system work for all Americans and ensuring that Black lives matter not just to civil rights advocates, but to our nation’s most powerful institutions. 

As the only branch of government with the ability to create laws, Congress has a vital role to play in protecting our civil rights. I’m using my position as a legislator to stand up for all Americans, especially those from communities the government has historically abandoned. As a public servant, I consider it my moral obligation to do everything in my power to advance the centuries-long struggle for civil rights and bring our nation closer to fulfilling its great promise.