The disturbing thing is not that they are breaking the law, it is that the law is breaking them.
That is what a bipartisan criminal justice reform committee of Kansas legislators learned this week, regarding the 213,000 Kansans who are reported to be violating driver’s license suspensions statewide. Many, for example, have done nothing worse than fail to pay a fine.
A system that makes it all but impossible for more than 100,000 Kansas to earn a living and provide for their families is a system that needs to change. We hope that those considering the subjects take information in these hearings to heart, and consider more besides.
It is important that legislators understand the ways in which the criminal justice system intersects with the lives of everyday Kansans. For many of those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale, or those in communities of color, the system is not a source of comfort or relief but instead a set of barriers that prevents them from progressing forward in life and contributing to the state’s economy.
And make no mistake, this system disproportionately affects those who are least able to handle its consequences.
Very few people, we would remind you, go into the world each day saying that they are going to be “bad” or break the law. No, most people have the very same goals. They want to earn a living. They want to support their children and spouses. They want to live in relative comfort.
In other words, they want what everyone wants: a happy life.
The aim of public policy should not be making the lives of these people more difficult. It should not be criminalizing relatively minor infractions and the derailing of not only one person’s life but the lives of their children.
This is why criminal justice reform matters. This is why both liberal and conservative groups have united behind the cause. But it isn’t a matter of just tweaking a few laws. It is the matter of rethinking our approach to justice itself. How do we keep our society safe while allowing our citizens the flexibility they need to make their lives better?
Our current system criminalizes or demeans a wide array of people. Notably, it doesn’t criminalize or demean the vast majority of those who serve in our Legislature. Basic humanity — and religious teaching itself — would suggest it is time for them to open their perspectives.
— The Topeka Capital-Journal