Our criminal justice system is designed to punish, not to rehabilitate or improve public safety. People of color, people from low-income backgrounds, people with behavioral health conditions, and people who are homeless are forgotten by public policy. As a result, they end up swept into a punitive and violent system that only serves to prevent their success and interrupt public safety. Catia seeks to reduce mass incarceration while promoting a vision of freedom from poverty, disease, and homelessness as public safety.
Catia has worked on criminal justice reform in Massachusetts and New Mexico, in both places seeking to expand services to prevent arrest in the first place and help people transition out of jail and prison back into their communities successfully. Catia has been working on systemic ways to reduce mass incarceration and improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Catia has written about how we can systematically reduce mass incarceration.
Criminalization of our most vulnerable residents reveals the gaps in our social and economic system. Our mental health system doesn't provide adequate access to care, and people end up killed by police or in jail. We don't treat substance abuse as a health problem, and people end up locked up with mandatory minimum sentences for small amounts of drug possession. We fail to provide adequate educational and vocational opportunity to children growing up in low-income neighborhoods incarcerate them for providing for their families in illicit ways instead. We fail to provide appropriate public safety to communities of color and people end up killed in police encounters. We allow people to sleep on the streets in the richest country on Earth, and then arrest them for addressing basic human needs like going to the bathroom and finding cover in the rain.
Catia has seen how all of the other policy areas addressed in her policy platform relate to each other, and how our societal failures in each case lead to the criminal justice system. That is why she cares so deeply about housing affordability, health care for all, education, workforce, poverty, and racism.
Catia has reviewed the evidence on a range of programs addressing the criminalization of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Catia has found that every stage of the criminal justice system and related systems fail to prioritize preventative rather than punitive outcomes.
One example is in emergency response. Our 911 dispatch and first responder system is set up to deal with two types of emergencies: medical, criminal, and fire. This leaves out a fundamental emergency category: behavioral health crisis. 911 dispatch protocols don't prioritize what to do in a behavioral health emergency, and there is no designated first responder for this type of crisis. Some police departments are starting to experiment with hiring behavioral health clinicians, but typically they don't work round-the-clock with emergency-speed response times like we have for a heart attack, fire, or robbery in progress.
Key flaws have also been highlighted in our 911 system for those things it does prioritize. Take, for example, the case of Laura Levis, who died on a bench outside the locked door of Somverille Hospital's emergency room. She called 911, but our system struggled to accurately pinpoint her location for response.
Catia seeks to improve our emergency response systems and ensure that they are designed at every step to avoid criminalization of problems and people that don't deserve it.
The Vera Institute of Justice has done some excellent research into using the 911 system to more effectively divert non-criminal emergencies away from the criminal justice system.
So, what is our criminal justice system really about? Is it fundamentally about punishment? Is it trying to prevent crime? Is it striving to keep people safe?
Catia believes that we have gone too far in promoting punishment for its own sake, and have lost our focus on what really matters: the safety and security of our neighbors and communities.
Catia believes that opportunity creates public safety. She will push for better educational opportunities for all communities, regardless of income or color. She will address systemic inequities in health care and housing. She will promote work and a safety net that supports all those who can't work.
She will focus on dramatically reducing mass incarceration while promoting more humane prisons and jails for those still incarcerated or detained. She will promote rehabilitation and ensure that jail and prison is not sentencing people to a lifetime of poverty and struggle, even if they do end up there initially. She will address cash bail, and has extensively reviewed the alternatives that have been developed for risk screening. And she will address racial disparities that increase with each step a person takes into the justice system.