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June 14, 2007

Dallas DA urges being smart and not just tough on crime

Thanks to StandDown Texas Project, I saw this great column from Craig Watkins, the district attorney of Dallas County, advocating a "smart on crime" philosophy for the criminal justice system.  Here are excerpts from a great piece:

During my first 100 days as Dallas County district attorney, I have challenged outdated notions of what constitutes justice and laid the groundwork for real, systemic change.

Violence is prevalent in our county, and we must face that violence head on. There is no place in our community for murderers, rapists, child molesters and other violent predators.  Justice demands that these predators face swift prosecution and harsh punishment.  I am committed to removing these outlaws from our streets and ensuring the safety of our families and neighbors.  Where these criminals are concerned, being "tough on crime" is the only appropriate response.

To progress in the war on crime, however, we must realize the limitations of the "tough on crime" approach.  If we are to succeed in ridding our community of crime, we must also be "smart on crime." Today, more than 2 million people are in our federal and state prisons and 8 million Americans in jail, on probation or on parole.  Collectively, the 50 states now spend more money building prisons than they spend on higher education....

We must reject this simplistic and reactive approach to the crime problem.  If we are going to be "smart on crime," we must ask ourselves, "What more can we do?"  When it comes to low-level offenders, we must consider alternative forms of punishment.

Crime requires accountability, but incarceration without opportunity for reform and rehabilitation is not the solution. Its benefits are temporary and short-sighted.  We must provide low-level offenders with the means and incentive to choose a lawful path in life when they re-enter our community.  Only then will there be a lasting, positive impact on crime in our county....

It is refreshing to see a Texas prosecutor making a strong and aggressive statement about the importance of being smart and not just tough on crime.  It is too bad for Genarlow Wilson that prosecutors in Georgia do not seem to understanding or appreciate that toughness must have sensible limits.

June 14, 2007 at 09:09 AM | Permalink


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Hopefully, Mr. Watkins agrees that those who sell drugs to kids deserve the tough on crime approach. However, it is always nice to see a prosecutor who is committed to dealing with violent predators with no mercy, and here's hoping that Mr. Watkins helps make Dallas a safer city.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 14, 2007 9:53:46 AM

It's also interesting that Mr. Watkins talks about getting murderers "off the street," not on the gurney.

Posted by: rothmatisseko | Jun 14, 2007 10:57:02 AM

This DA also has been very aggresive in righting wrongs done to people in his county. He has rechecked cases where DNA was available to make sure the right person was in prison and in several cases found the wrong person was being held. He has been responsible for getting the wrongly accused released and getting the police looking for the real offender. We need more DA's like this. He is interested in getting the right person for the crime instead of just getting someone whether it is the right person or not.

Posted by: James Strahan | Jun 14, 2007 11:21:35 AM

To your point, Rothmat, whule I favor capital punishment, I'll live with a DA who is harsh on violent crime versus someone who isn't so harsh, but gets death every once in a while.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 14, 2007 11:44:27 AM

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