Policies of mass incarceration have failed us. It’s long past time to turn to new, evidence-based approaches to justice.
Across this country, we have more than 140,000 American veterans in prison—many of them for nonviolent offenses that are a direct result of mental trauma developed while serving our country. They’re imprisoned at a higher rate than the general population.
In Hattiesburg, we have a veterans court that does great work in getting nonviolent offenders the help they need—help like addiction treatment, mental healthcare, and housing options—rather than locking them away. This nation has an obligation to help expand access to veterans courts, rather than locking up our veterans and throwing away the key.
Beyond that, we must acknowledge that after 40 years, the War on Drugs still doesn’t work. Drug addiction is a disease that should be treated as such. Mental illness is not a crime.
Mississippi has been in the bottom ten for education for far too long. Two-thirds of fourth graders cannot read at a fourth-grade level. As the son of a public-school teacher and father of three public school students, David Sellers understands the importance of quality education. As the Book of Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
That begins by ensuring that every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in South Mississippi has access to preschool. Parents should not have to choose between paying rent and sending their child to preschool. Studies show that expanding access to pre-K reduces crime and provides our children with a foundation of learning that stays with them the rest of their lives.
We also must treat our teachers with the respect that they deserve, starting with pay raises. State leaders have promised big pay raises but have failed to deliver. We can help at the federal level by increasing funding for Title I schools. If we don’t pay competitive rates, Mississippi will continue to struggle with teacher shortages.
We often ask far too much from our police officers. If we’re going to give them such a tough and complicated job, we owe it to them to give them the best training possible through federal funding.
David Sellers will also work with Republicans to pass legislation to help every law enforcement agency in the country buy body cameras for their officers. Body cameras protect officers from wrongful accusations, and protect citizens from misconduct.
That’s consistent with the common-sense reality that most Mississippians understand but few politicians acknowledge: Ultimately, it should be possible to both support law enforcement officers and hold them to very high standards of professionalism and accountability.
Women still only earn 82 cents for every dollar paid to men. Congress desperately needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which closes loopholes that allow companies to pay women less than men for the same job.
The Paycheck Fairness Act protects men, too. Right now, companies are allowed to ask job applicants how much they’ve made in past jobs, so that they don’t accidentally offer much more than workers are accustomed to. If you’ve been paid less than you deserve your whole career, that doesn’t mean you should be paid less than you deserve at your next job. The Paycheck Fairness Act will right this wrong.
Raise the Minimum Wage
David Sellers understands that when Democrats and Republicans refuse to work together, our workers suffer. We need to work together to raise the minimum wage to a level that gives a living wage to every worker in this country.
Ultimately, raising the minimum wage is necessary for economic growth. If we make sure workers have more money in their pockets, more money will be spent, taxpayers will spend less on welfare programs, and our small business owners will see more revenue. That’s why 80% of business executives support raising the minimum wage.
This isn’t a partisan issue. Red states like Arkansas and South Dakota have already raised state minimum wages. It’s time for the rest of the country, including Mississippi, to catch up.
As Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us: “To the one who works, his wages are counted not as a gift but as his due.”
No worker deserves to fall into poverty because they get sick. When people show up to work with the flu or COVID-19 because they can’t afford to take off, everyone is affected.
That is why Congress must pass a paid family and medical leave for all workers.