The United States wastes billions of dollars "warehousing" low-level offenders, Newark Mayor and U.S. Senate hopeful Cory Booker said today, calling for a major overhaul of America's prison system.
"If we are concerned about large government, mass incarceration represents an ever-growing expenditure while producing failed results," Booker said at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in 1968 as part of his Poor People's Campaign.
Only about a dozen people showed up to the event, including state Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson.)
Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where King gave his landmark "I Have a Dream Speech." Booker used King's memory in calling for an end to injustices in the country's prisons.
"The people of New Jersey deserve to have a criminal justice systm that is fundamentally about justice," he said. "We need to make sure that everybody is treated equally under the law."
Booker laid out a plan to provide more drug treatment, end mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, decriminalize marijuana, increase funding for prisoner re-entry programs, and bring an end to for-profit, private prisons.
He also excoriated a prison system that incarcerates vastly higher numbers of African -Americans than whites for similar offenses.