Policies written in conjunction with Michael Mathieu

CIVIL RIGHTS

HUMAN RIGHTS & EQUITY

The US Supreme Court made it clear in its recent ruling on Bostock v. Clayton County - members of the LGBTQIA+ community are protected from discrimination under Title VII language that protects from sex-based discrimination in employment. This interpretation of sex-based discrimination will hopefully be adopted across all sex-based laws, ensuring that individual equality is recognized and protected throughout our legal code. 

 

While we can dream that this ruling will in some way close the book on discrimination by gender identity or sexual orientation under the law, reality is not such a rosy picture. We are not done with the fight for equal rights, neither in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, nor in the continuing fight for equality for all races, colors, religions, sexes, or national origins, or other groups which are found to require protection in the future. 

 

In any or all of these fights, the Judiciary could choose to reverse itself, the Legislature could find new language to restrict rights in another fashion, or the Executive could modify its actions and rules to enable continued discrimination under the guise of other policy. On top of this, systemic societal discrimination outside of the structure of government is a critical issue.

 

Besides the newly-won equality within the designation of ‘sex’ for gender identity and sexual orientation, we continue to falter in our commitment to equalities which have been formally recognized for decades:

 

  • Race and Color: Our nation must continue to strive to heal the scars of slavery and Jim Crow. These inequities combine with racial and color-based prejudices to cause wide rifts in our society. These rifts cause severe disadvantages for those who are not in the white majority - including critical issues with how law enforcement treats people based on race or color.

  • Religion: Religious minorities continue to see their beliefs discriminated against, and there is no consistent recognition of the rights of the growing portion of the population who choose to say ‘none of the above.’

  • Sex / Gender: Trans and cis women continue to experience major instances of discrimination, varying from sexual harrassment to workplace rights to the management of healthcare. Men have largely been the beneficiaries of many of these inequalities, but also deserve to share in some advancements (e.g. any formal maternity leave should include paternity leave).

  • National Origin: Immigrants who have worked hard to bring themselves and their families to a new life as residents or citizens of the United States continue to fight to be included in their new homeland. In addition, people who originate from the Indigenous tribes that pre-dated European Colonization continue to fight for rights to shrinking portions of a land that was once entirely theirs.

 

Part of Dana Ferguson's role in Congress will be to fight for the equality and equity of individuals based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), and national origin. Whoever a person is, their identity should be protected, and there should be no consequences to having a given identity, whether those consequences be legal or otherwise. 

 

Separately, Dana will fight for the rights of those who wish to express different opinions from the above, not to restrict them. The caveat being that, while legal consequences to expression are limited by the protections of our First Amendment, there are societal consequences which are not protected therein - the First Amendment does not protect anyone from having the opinions of others expressed in return.

 

These two responsibilities seem at odds, but it is important for them to be fought for together.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

REFORMATION FOR JUSTICE

We can be appreciative of the efforts of individuals and local law enforcement departments and still offer critical analysis of national systemic problems pertaining to justice and inequity. Nationally, to better bridge the gap between law enforcement and Communities of Color, Dana Ferguson is a proponent of progressive policing and Criminal Justice Reform (CJR) including:​​
  • Fair sentencing

  • Combat mass incarceration

  • End mandatory minimums

  • End imprisonment of cannabis offenders

  • Expunge records of cannabis offenders

  • End the so-called ‘War on Drugs’

  • #BanTheBox

  • End ‘Stop and Frisk’

  • End ‘Broken Window Policing’

  • End ‘Predictive Policing’

  • Re-evaluate ‘Legacy Training’

  • Deploy #CommunityPolicing

  • Better aid re-entry, combat recidivism

  • End ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws

  • Re-train officers in de-escalation

  • Prosecute police brutality

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Judge, jury, and executioner - three distinct roles within the realm of criminal justice, none of which were held by Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd earlier this year. This incident specifically, as well as the thousands of similar events that have occurred in the United States over the years, prove that our criminal justice system collectively requires significant reforms. 

 

For clarity, Dana's positions on these reforms are separated into stages of the criminal justice process - crime definition, policing, trial, sentencing, execution of sentence, and completion of sentence. 

CRIME DEFINITION 

Defining a crime is typically done by a mix of executive and legislative policies. One such example is drug crimes - the criminalization of substances such as marijuana goes against general public movements, and the Legislature needs to move to respond to the will of the people in the 21st century.

 

Dana's positions on general crime definition reforms are as follows:

  • Criminal code cleanups - our criminal code at the federal and state levels are full of archaic and oft-forgotten statues which are used in a discretionary way - usually negatively. We need a national push to clean up and consolidate criminal codes to make them understandable for the average person

  • Federal legalization of marijuana - our federal handling of marijuana is severely outdated - as more and more states open up to legalizing, we need to take the federal government out of regulating marijuana. If individual states choose to continue to restrict, that is up to their voters, but there’s no need for the federal government to remain involved. We should consider the same policy movement for other drugs that are considered to be relatively minimal-risk, as well.

  • Consolidation of protection of personal property laws - stand-your-ground laws have given individuals who have no legal standing the opportunity to move from self defense into deciding when death is warranted. All homicides, regardless of self defense, should be investigated as homicides - the presumption of innocence does not impact the selection of crime to investigate one for. 

POLICING

Police in the United States have a mixed bag of relationships within their jurisdictions. These relationships vary widely depending on the actions of specific officers, community history, local legislation, and other factors. Some officers provide great service to their communities, and may not be recognized as such. Others have multiple use of force violations on their records, with little to no consequence. Sometimes the good are indeed recognized as good, and the bad are indeed recognized as bad - but never often enough. There is a clear opportunity to solve these problems, and we need to work together with our communities to find it.

 

Dana Ferguson's positions on general policing reforms are as follows:

  • Licensing of police officers - by ensuring that police officers are properly licensed and those licenses are tracked nationally, violators of use of force doctrine would no longer be able to continue their violations by moving to other counties

  • Limitation of police violence - police officers have a responsibility to deliver accused criminals to trial, not to end their lives on the street. All fatalities or serious injuries at the hands of police officers should be investigated on a federal level as homicides or attempted homicides

  • Monitoring of police activities - body cameras are an essential part of ensuring that all evidence is properly collected, including evidence of witness activities. Primary police reports should be written by a third person who A) has no relation to the officer at hand and B) reviews video and audio recordings, as well as collected evidence; a recording which misses any part of an encounter with a suspect is inadmissible in court

  • Establishment of community policing standards - police officers should always be familiar with their constituents, but not so familiar that they let justice standards slip. It’s important for the community to know that officers are there to serve and protect

  • Integration of mental health and community services - police officers are not trained to manage every situation they may come across, and therefore there is a need for triage to determine if the officer will need assistance from another form of professional

TRIAL

Trial courts are complicated by how the criminal justice system has taken responsibility away from the traditional jury concept in the interest of expediency, and has separated off chunks of judicial responsibility into varying specialty organizations such as bankruptcy courts, some of which reside under the executive. Our bail system is also severely broken, creating a monetary threshold where the wealthy are not physically impeded by accusations of crimes, whereas the less-well-off are driven destitute to have the same treatment of innocent until proven guilty.

 

My positions on general trial reform are as follows:

  • Revisit ‘executive courts’ - at several points within the executive branch, judiciary-like activities take place which would be better housed in the appropriate branch of government. We should revisit these ‘executive courts’ to determine if there’s a true need for them to exist in the incorrect branch.

  • Reconsider how bail is set - incarceration prior to trial for non-dangerous criminals could be replaced with more robust tracking mechanisms, and bail should be set based on a percentage of net worth instead of on a raw monetary amount.

 

The management of jury trials in particular is complicated by a variety of factors, not the least of which is that jury duty is typically seen as a burden by those who are called. We need several reforms to how juries are managed in order to improve the experience for all involved, so that jury duty is minimally disruptive and maximally satisfying as a way to give back to the communities and country we all love.

 

Dana Ferguson's positions on jury trial reforms draw heavily from the writings of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the topic:

  • Privilege, not a burden - jury duty should be seen as something that is worth doing, not something that is worth getting out of; to ensure this, we need to find ways to better recompense our jurors for their time, including to ensure that their pay is not impacted by their time performing their civic duty

  • Unbiased jury selection - the peremptory challenge is a no-reason-required removal of a juror from a jury. These challenges are still used today in bias-driven ways (usually racially) despite best attempts to prevent such bias, and need to be closely evaluated to determine if they are still needed or if there’s a better alternative

  • Increase jury investment - jury trials may be forever changed by the impacts of Coronavirus, but we still have legacy problems with how jurors interact with the courtroom itself. Reforms to increase pre-trial education of jurors on the laws at hand, and to invest in in-trial aids to help jurors retain all relevant information, will help jurors to achieve the correct verdict more frequently

SENTENCING

Sentencing is a realm plagued by inherently racist concepts such as mandatory minimums, which tend to be biased against Black Americans by targeting drugs more commonly used in their communities.  

Dana Ferguson's positions on general sentencing reforms are as follows:

  • Focus on criminal reform and preventing recidivism - sentences should err towards promoting recovery, especially for first time offenses. Prison time should be considered after consideration of other sentences that promote recovery, though violent crime is an exception to this philosophy.

  • Elimination of racist mandatory minimums - most mandatory minimum sentences carry a racial connotation that needs to be rebalanced. The best example in recent history is the difference between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentencing, where the rough volume difference was 100x less crack cocaine in possession to be punished with the same sentence - 5g of crack cocaine equaled 500g of powder cocaine in sentencing.

  • Strict but reasonable management of repeat offenses - repeat offenders mean that the system did not work properly; the root cause was not properly managed. We need to delve into repeat offenders to understand why they repeated, and dig into solving that root cause, whether individual or systemic.

EXECUTION OF SENTENCE

Our prison system is also broken, in a way that advantages private prison owners and the recipients of their lobbying dollars at the expense of the mental and physical health of inmates. We need to find a progressive way to break down our current prison system into a more nuanced approach, combining mental health management with criminal punishment with the goal of minimizing recidivism.

 

Dana Ferguson's positions on general execution of sentence reforms are as follows:

  • Elimination of private prisons - private prisons lead to minimizing condition quality and maximizing prisoner dwell time, as there is no incentive to maximizing outcomes. Either redesign incentive payment to be based on recidivism or eliminate private prisons altogether to solve this problem.

  • Separation of prisons from other reform methods - We need independent facilities for mental health vs non-violent crime vs violent crime, as feasible. When all crimes are mashed together in the same facilities it is difficult to focus on recovery, as so much energy has to be spent on protection of prisoners.

  • Humanize prisons - even after being convicted of a crime, criminals are still human and should be treated as such. We need to find ways to ensure that prisoners don’t lose connection with the outside world, to improve chances of re-integration with society after sentences are complete.

 

COMPLETION OF SENTENCE

Upon completion of sentence, the reintroduction of a former criminal into society should be done in such a way that they are not forever-burdened with the status of being a second-class citizen. 

 

Dana Ferguson's positions on general completion of sentence reforms are as follows:

  • Guarantee voting rights - once a sentence is completed, there should be no question that voting rights are returned; we either believe in criminal reform or we don’t, there’s no in-between. 

  • Provide post-sentence assistance - instead of throwing former criminals back into society with no way of easing back into things, we should provide a staircase back to society with the goal of preventing repeat offenses. This is best done by researching repeat offenders (as mentioned above) during trial to determine which factors can be mitigated systemically or individually

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PO Box 414

Negaunee, MI 49866

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