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Republicans Rethinking 'Tough on Crime'

March 18, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

It wasn’t so very long ago that every Republican running for higher office sounded as if he were really running for sheriff. “Tough on crime” was a slogan that never failed. Remember Willie Horton?

But this time around, something is different. Most of the Republican presidential candidates are touting their positions in favor of reducing prison time, allowing some felons to expunge or seal their criminal records, and even reforming federal drug laws. Rather than putting more people in jail and throwing away the key, Republicans are for letting people out of jail.

Senator Rand Paul, of course, has been the candidate most identified with calls for criminal-justice reform, both rhetorically and legislatively. Recently, for example, he joined Democratic Senators Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) in sponsoring legislation that would repeal the federal ban on marijuana. Paul has also co-sponsored the REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act with Booker, to make it easier to expunge or seal criminal records for nonviolent offenses. The idea behind the legislation is that a youthful arrest for marijuana possession or joy-riding should not become a permanent barrier to getting a job.

But Paul is not the only senator cum presidential aspirant advocating criminal-justice reform.

Senator Ted Cruz has also been an important voice for reform. Recently, he joined Democratic Senators Richard Durbin (Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.), as well as Booker, in introducing legislation that would significantly reduce sentences for many federal drug crimes. That bill passed the Judiciary Committee last year by a vote of 12 to 5. Cruz also co-sponsored legislation with Senator Paul to make the reduction in crack sentencing approved by Congress in 2010 retroactive, as well as cutting the mandatory minimum sentence for a variety of drug offenses in half.

Criminal-justice reform is increasingly an issue among potential 2016 candidates.”

More surprising to some, Cruz’s fellow Texan Rick Perry has also become a leader on these issues. For instance, the former governor told CPAC, “You want to talk about real conservative governance? Shut prisons down. Save that money.” He has pointed out that “During my leadership as governor, Texas shut down three prisons, and we saved taxpayers $2 billion. When I left office, Texas had the lowest crime rate in our state since 1968. My administration started treatment programs and drug courts for people who wouldn’t be served well by sitting behind bars. We …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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