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I know this was a very rough and emotional weekend for us all. Like you, I am still processing what I have witnessed over the past week. I have spent the last 11 years working on criminal justice reform in South Carolina. I recently completed my two-year term on the Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, where members of the community from all walks of life are working with those in our local criminal justice system to address the disproportionate incarceration rate of minority groups and the overuse of our county jail through dialogue, collaboration and data analysis.

I know there is no magic solution to all of this, but here is where I’m at:

– We have militarized our police forces and have moved away from true community policing in which officers have connections to the neighborhoods they patrol. We need to hire officers that are from our communities, and give them the time and resources to build relationships with those they police.

– We have two justice systems: one for the rich and one for the poor. The outcomes of those two systems differ drastically, and until we bridge that gap, we are not treating everyone fairly under the law.

– Our criminal justice system is too focused on punishment instead of what it will take to restore that person to be a productive member of society. Instead, we warehouse people who have broken the law, and they leave prison or jail without the tools or opportunities to be productive members of society.

– We must live up to our promise of opportunity for all, and there’s nowhere better to start than in our schools and our homes. We need to ensure every kid in this state (and adults, too) are guaranteed a quality 21st century education, one that starts at the earliest age possible. We also need to teach our kids to love, not to hate or distrust those who look different than us.

– We must vote like our lives depend on it. There are primary elections in South Carolina on June 9th. This November, is the biggest election of my lifetime. Elections have consequences. Let’s make sure they are good consequences.

Here is a picture of me and others from the Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council at a recent forum with the Hispanic community. We need to do a lot more of this to get people talking and those in power to listen to them. I promise to continue to do my part as a citizen. And if I am elected as the State Representative for District 112 (Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms), I will be able to do even more to help.

What are your ideas for how we fix what is so clearly broken?

CJCC members with the members and friends of the Art Pot Community Center in Hanahan.

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