criminal justice reform

If Criminal Justice Reform Can Do This, It’s Hugely Important for 2016 and Beyond

-

You may have seen the #justicereform hashtag pop up in your timeline this week. Well, it wasn’t random. There was a summit to discuss the issue in Washington DC, and it brought together two organizations that would normally cause a rip in the space-time continuum.

Co-sponsored by the conservative FreedomWorks and liberal Center for American Progress, the Coalition for Public Safety summit brought in activists, bloggers, and radio hosts from the right and left to learn more about this issue that has united these disparate forces. Anything that can do this deserves to be taken seriously as a unifying principle by our policy-makers.

Jason Pye, formerly of this site, and now of FreedomWorks, told me some great things about the event.

There was a lot of positive feedback from bloggers about Molly Gill of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, who spoke at FreedomWorks’ morning session. She gave us some heartbreaking stories of families that have been torn apart by federal mandatory minimum sentences, a costly big government policy that has led to the incarceration of thousands of low-level, nonviolent offenders.

This is another reason why justice reform should be a huge issue on every level of government, not just for the presidential election. Pye says there’s already big things happening at the national level.

The Ferguson Report Should be the Catalyst for National Criminal Justice Reform, and Conservatives Should Lead

-

After briefly flirting with using the DOJ report on the Michael Brown shooting and Ferguson police department to continue tone deaf whining about the #HandsUpDontShoot protest slogan, conservatives are finally coming to realize the real importance of the report. It should be the catalyst for nationwide criminal justice reform, and they should lead that effort.

This week, leading conservative publications RedState, National Review, and Commentary all have long posts explaining in depth the horrific actions of the Ferguson PD and why conservatives should be leading the charge for reform, not making excuses.

For example, the police department, allegedly a public safety organization, was primarily used to pad the city budget:

Rand Paul is doing more than any other Republican to reach out to voters, and that could put him in the White House

Libertarianism is starting to become so popular in the media that it’s annoying. Mainstream outlets like the New York Times Magazine, Time, Washington Post, and Politico are trumpeting the rise of libertarians within the Republican Party and the country as a whole, as well as Rand Paul’s corresponding march toward a 2016 campaign.

This week the civil libertarian Vice joins the chorus with as friendly a profile as you can hope for from a leftist publication. Vice uses Senator Paul’s recent unexpected Time op-ed as a launching point to tout his mass appeal on a wide array of issues:

Yes, Rand Paul is the future of the GOP

Over at the American Spectator, Reid Smith and Jamie Weinstein (so much for that “I before E” rule, right?), debate whether Rand Paul is the future of the Republican Party.

Smith takes the pro-Paul position in his part, “A New Age of Liberty,” in which he touts the libertarian scion’s innovative tactics and positions and success in just three years in the Senate. Weinstein takes the anti-Paul side, under the head “GOP Less Libertarian Thank You Think,” using more concrete examples, but making less sense doing it.

Weinstein’s main point against Rand Paul is ideological, and no surprise, focuses on the area where he differs most sharply with  party leadership: foreign policy. He argues that while Paul turned heads with his drone filibuster and then helped defeat the authorization of force in Syria resolution, the Syria result was an exception, and the continued support for military action against Iranian nuclear capability is the rule. Paul didn’t tilt the party more isolationist, Weinstein claims, people just didn’t like the options in Syria. While a convincing argument, we have another data point now with which we can test this theory: Ukraine.

Followingly less than a year after the Syria debate, 56% of Americans say we should “not get too involved” in Russia’s annexation of Ukraine either. And while 67% of Republicans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the situation so far, 50% say it’s important we don’t get involved.

Why Republicans should follow Rand Paul’s lead

The Republican Party seems poised for a successful mid-term election. There has even been talk of a building “Republican wave,” should voter dissatisfaction intensify and solidify, though its far too early to say for sure what will happen.

But if a “Republican wave” does indeed happen this fall and the party takes control of the Senate, a goal that has proved to be out of reach in the past two cycles, GOP leaders and talking heads should be cautious in overstating what it means.

Yes, President Barack Obama is plagued by low approval ratings and rejection of Obamacare, his signature domestic achievement. Voters aren’t too thrilled about the state of the economy or his handling of foreign policy.

But Republicans must realize that electoral success this doesn’t mean that voters have embraced the party, as polls almost universally show. In a two-party system at a time of malaise, the party not in control is the beneficiary of voter anger. This was true in 2006 when Democrats won control of Congress. It was true in 2010 when Republicans gained 63 seats on their way to winning the House of Representatives.

There is no denying that the Republican Party has a very real messaging problem, and party leaders realize it. That’s why the Republican National Committee released a report, The Growth and Opportunity Project, to try to figure out what went wrong in the 2012 election as well as try to find solutions to expand its reach.

Though that “autopsy,” so to speak, raised some excellent points, it alienated many of the grassroots activists that compromise part of the Republican base.

Three reasons why conservatives should support ending the War on Drugs

By any reasonable standard, the War on Drugs has been a total disaster   It has not shown any results in terms of reducing drug usage.  The cost in money, resources, and lives has been immense.  It’s no shock, then, that a whopping 82% of the American public believes it has been a failure.  Yet in our political realm, it is the name that cannot be spoken.  Political leaders who seriously question it are largely on the fringes, with coverage of the issue mainly relegated to places like Reason and other libertarian sources (as well as some liberal publications).  In my experience, it’s rare to even see it discussed in conservative circles - and that’s a great shame.  If conservatives could educate themselves on it, I think it could be a great issue.  There are numerous reasons why, but here are just three.

First of all, the War on Drugs destroys families, especially within minority communities.  Conservatives like to talk about how important the family is, yet seem to be not bothered by the fact that the United States incarcerates 2.3 million people, more than any other nation (except perhaps China).  Many of these inmates are fathers, sons, mothers and daughters who are in prison for non-violent drug-related offenses.  They are doing hard time alongside violent criminals because our laws are so strict.  Instead of getting clean and being able to make something of their lives, they are in prison with felonies on their record, making it near impossible to recover.  I can’t see for a second how society and the family unit are bettered by this.  Why destroy someone’s life for using drugs?

Chris Christie - The War on Drugs is a ‘failure’

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the latest in a slowly growing number of politicians who is admitting what millions of Americans already know - that the policy of incarcerating millions of drug users is extremely illogical and counterproductive.  Christie joins fellow Garden State politician Cory Booker who recently took to Twitter to decry the so-called “War on Drugs,” which, by any reasonable standard, is a war that has been a utter disaster.

In Christie’s view, the state of New Jersey would be far better off providing treatment for drug abusers than it is “warehousing addicted people.”  By the Governor’s math, incarceration costs the state $49,000 a year as opposed to $24,000 for treatment.  While one can debate whether taxpayers should be footing the bill to provide such treatment, it’s surely a significant improvement over a mindset that sees abusers as felons to be punished, rather than patients who need help.

Christie is remarkable for being one of the few Republican figures to criticize the War on Drugs.  GOP nominee Mitt Romney has expressed his intention to fully continue the War on Drugs, even amp it up.  Newt Gingrich famously praised Singapore’s draconian policy of executing drug smugglers.

For many years, it is has been something that was hardly discussed by mainstream leaders.  So it is indeed encouraging to see more and more of them come to the understanding that the War on Drugs is doing immense harm.  We’ll see if this actually has any impact on policy.

TX senators propose dueling bills that move justice reform backward

-

Texas, the land of liberty, proud former republic, happy to be left alone to grill meat and eat tacos until the end of the earth, is supposed to take care of its own and not demand federal government interference, even when times get tough. But that’s exactly what two bills just introduced by the Lone Star State’s senators do. Neither is necessary or advisable, especially in light of justice reform efforts that do the opposite.

After the horrific police massacre in Dallas last weekend, John Cornyn has introduced a bill to make killing law enforcement officers and other public officials a federal crime with a new mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and option for the death penalty. While a reaction of this magnitude is understandable after Dallas and other recent attacks on police, in reality it’s much more of an overreaction.

Killing a police officer is already a capital offense in almost every state that has the death penalty, including Texas. The country is currently debating whether the states and federal government should have the death penalty at all; adding new qualifications for it should be out of the question, especially when states are handling it just fine on their own.

10 years of #JusticeReform success: Tough on crime, not on criminals

-

When you hear “tough on crime”, you think of convicting criminals with long, harsh sentences and no parole. For decades, that was the standard operating procedure for states and cities across the country. One minor problem - it made crime worse, not better.

After nearly 10 years of trying new ideas in some of those states, the evidence is clear. Being tough on crime requires treating criminals like people, since, well, they are.

In 2007 Texas was faced with a problem - build new prisons it couldn’t afford, or find another way. It found another way. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative increased rehabilitation services in several areas: drug abuse, mental health, occupational training, and education. The results are undeniable. Texas saved between $3 and 5 billion in costs and has lowered both crime rates and the state prison population by double digits.

Since Texas pioneered the approach, 32 states have made significant reforms to their criminal justice systems and subsequently seen decreases in both incarceration and crime rates, according to Jenna Moll of the US Justice Action Network at FreedomWorks’ #JusticeForAll summit over the weekend. It’s simply a provable fact now that there is no public safety benefit from incarceration-only policies.

The problem with the old “tough on criminals” approach is that 95% of convicts get out of jail. What shape do we want them in when they do? Do we want them ready to reintegrate into society, healthier, smarter, more well adjusted? Or do we want them locked away for years with their own kind to hone their anti-social behaviors into superpowers?

Washington Post stumped by Rand Paul because he’s shattering media narratives about the Tea Party

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) outreach efforts to minorities and young people with a heavy focus on criminal justice reform, police militarization, and civil liberties has perplexed the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake.

Over at Washington Post’s The Fix, Blake declared that the “Tea Party” label — which, as he notes, has been overused since the peak of the movement in 2010 — is “far too simple” for Paul. He points to the Kentucky Republican’s piece in Time on the startling scenes from Ferguson, Missouri and police militarization:

Given Paul’s political rise — he defeated an establishment-aligned Republican in a 2010 primary — it was natural to label him a tea partier. We have done it too — repeatedly. It’s the easiest short-hand for a GOP outsider. But more and more, it’s looking like that label doesn’t really fit. While Paul is certainly aligned with the tea party on a lot of stuff, the label doesn’t describe him as well as it does someone like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). An op-ed Paul wrote Thursday in Time magazine was just the latest example of that. The things Paul said in it are not the kind of things you would expect from a tea partier.
[…]
The trouble with Paul is that no well-known labels seem to fit him well. While his dad, Ron Paul, is a pretty straight-line libertarian, that’s not really who the younger Paul is. He’s not an establishment Republican, a neo-conservative, an arch-conservative or a moderate Republican.

We still don’t know what label would be better than “tea party,” but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that this label doesn’t really fit. Maybe he’s just a Rand Paul Republican.


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.