Cunningham believes in a thorough overhaul of our prison system. The Cunningham Administration will abolish for-profit prisons, focus on rehabilitation efforts by offering assistance to gang members and employment programs for ex-felons, increase the funding for halfway houses, and encourage the Federal funding of in-prison re-education programs that focus on tradecraft.
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Cunningham’s Prison Reform Doctrine
Private Prisons Must Be Abolished
Private prisons — prisons where individuals are incarcerated by a third party that is contracted by a government agency — held approximately 7% of state prisoners and 15% of Federal prisoners in 2015. In theory a good idea (the state has too many prisoners and not enough space in the government-run prison system, and either the inability or the unwillingness to build more infrastructure to accommodate these prisoners), for-profit prisons have an institutional history of violence, corruption and minimal savings for the government. The Cunningham Administration will abolish private prisons by purchasing these prisons from third parties and absorbing them as Federal assets. Additionally, Cunningham will ensure that corrupt officials and supervisors of these private prisons will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Prison: An Exit Strategy
In order to provide felons with a fair chance at a different way of life when they inevitably exit prison, the Cunningham Administration will provide prisons with tradecraft educational programs, and bolster the government funding of halfway houses. In taking this two-pronged approach to assistance, felons and ex-felons will be able to obtain professional qualifications and affordable housing. Allowing ex-felons affordable living arrangements and alternative ways to support themselves once they are out of prison are vital to breaking the cycle of multiple incarcerations and easing the current pressure on the prison system.
Prisons & Gangs: An Exodus from the Cycle
America is plagued by gangs that have spread across the country and taken root coast to coast. They spring up where there is poverty, despair, and dissolution. They swallow up promising members of our community, and very few escape the grasp of the gang life once inducted. Cunningham believes that in order to combat gang violence and allow people vulnerable to recruitment the opportunity to better their lives and be productive members of society, we must implement certain social programs aimed at reintegration and employment.
In order to eradicate gangs from our communities, we must offer a way out to those already entrenched in these violent organizations. Cunningham will introduce the Exodus Program, a government-financed program aimed at societal re-entry for gang members.
The Exodus Program relies on the cooperation of prisons, local police and businesses with gang members proactively seeking an exit strategy. First, the Cunningham Administration will require all state and federal prisons to have tattoo removal services available to all prisoners. Incarcerated gang members will have the ability to remove tattoos while serving time, allowing them the ability to enter society free of gang markings. Additionally, upon finishing their sentence, prisoners previously affiliated with gangs will be given the option of relocation to start a new life somewhere else — housing will be provided through local Housing and Urban Development centers. Finally, businesses will receive additional tax breaks for hiring newly released prisoners.
New Dawn Program
Obtaining gainful employment with a criminal record is a challenging task, but without the opportunity of employment and the chance of becoming a productive member of society, it becomes almost impossible not to fall back into a life of crime. To combat this vicious cycle, Cunningham has proposed a radical solution called the New Dawn Program. The Cunningham Administration will partner with the Peace Corps, Department of State and the Department of Justice to give ex-felons a fighting chance for success in life.
The New Dawn Program will offer ex-felons a means to have their backgrounds cleared of prior convictions through service overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer. Ex-felons will join a special wing of the Peace Corps and travel through the Department of State to developing nations to volunteer. Similar to a military enlistment in respect to periods of enlistment, ex-felons will receive a paycheck equivalent to that of a junior enlisted member of the Department of Defense. Upon the completion of their obligated time of service, ex-felons will receive a letter from the Department of Justice stating their criminal records have been expunged.
Overall, reforming the American prison system will take cooperation between states, prisons, business owners, federal departments and local communities themselves. Ultimately, the solution to preventing high levels of incarceration and remedying the nation’s prison problem is to provide vulnerable populations with assistance, and those who are already part of the prison system with a way to start over. The Cunningham Administration will approach the prison system from a number of different angles in order to provide a holistic solution and allow for real change to take root.