There's Little Hope for Criminal Justice Reform Beyond Obama

By, Jacob Smith

The final stretch until election day has become a battle of personalities over policies. As a result, mass incarceration and criminal justice have taken a backseat in the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

With a shift away from debating over policies, the candidates are doing a great disservice to millennials. A recent Rock the Vote/USA Today poll found that nearly a quarter of millennials believe that the issue of criminal justice should be the top priority of the next president.

According to the, the U.S. has seen a 500 percent increase in state and federal prison populations over the past 40 years. Only occupying five percent of the world's population, America holds 25 percent of the world's prisoners.

Adam Bates, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, says that the high incarceration rates are largely due to the prohibition of drugs.

"Very few other countries treat drug addiction the way we do in this country, which is to just throw everyone into prison," said Bates.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons , 46 percent of inmates in federal prisons are there for drug-related offenses.

"Mass incarceration makes our entire country worse off, and we need to do something about it," said President Barack Obama at an NAACP Conference last July.

Obama has taken steps in recognizing the issue by commuting prison sentences and visiting inmates, however, the future of criminal justice could face uncertainty in a Trump or Clinton presidency.

"Between the two main candidates, this is kind of a scary time for criminal justice reform," said Bates, recalling that both candidates have had a history of standing on both sides of the issue.

Though the government's future stance on the issue remains unclear, millennials are voicing their concern, and Bates recognizes it.

"This is a 'we have a problem and we need to find out ways to fix it' generation and I think that's hopeful."