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Justice Reform: A Surprisingly Hot Topic

May 29, 2019 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

While we should expect the upcoming presidential campaign to
focus on traditional issues of the economy, taxes, foreign policy,
trade, and immigration — as well as the elephant in the room
that is Donald Trump — criminal-justice reform has become a
surprisingly hot topic on the campaign trail.

At one point, every presidential candidate pretended he was
running for sheriff. “Tough on crime” was considered
the ultimate badge of honor — in both parties. Bill Clinton
even rushed home during his campaign to execute a mentally disabled
murderer. Times have clearly changed.

This is in part due to the growing evidence of racial and class
inequities within the criminal-justice system. Studies also show
that failures within our criminal-justice system contribute to
poverty and dependence. A recent YouGov poll conducted on behalf of
the Cato Institute found that 22 percent of the unemployed and 23
percent of people on welfare had been unable to find a job because
of a criminal record. Scholars at Villanova have concluded that
mass incarceration increases the U.S. poverty rate by as much as 20
percent. It has also become clear that overcriminalization and mass
incarceration have not necessarily made us safer. Support for
criminal-justice reform now cuts across party lines.

Criminal-justice reform
has become a surprisingly hot topic on the campaign
trail.

But there is also a large degree of politics behind the sudden
importance of criminal-justice reform on the campaign trail. Most
important, Democratic front runner Joe Biden is perceived as being
vulnerable on the issue. Biden’s supported and partially
wrote the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which
led to an increase in incarceration — especially among
African Americans. He also supported and sponsored several pieces
of legislation that enhanced sentencing for drug-related crimes,
once again contributing to the mass incarceration of
minorities.

Even President Trump has taken the opportunity to tweak Biden on
the issue, tweeting, “Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime
Bill will not have a chance of being elected. In particular,
African Americans will not be able [sic] to vote for you. I, on the
other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had
tremendous support, and helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!” And in
a second tweet, Trump noted that “Super Predator was the term
associated with the 1994 Crime Bill that Sleepy Joe Biden was so
heavily involved in passing. That was a dark period in American
History, but has Sleepy Joe apologized? No!”

Trump is not exactly the best messenger on this front, given his
at least implied support for police abuses. But he is correct that
he signed the FIRST STEP Act, the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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