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April 19, 2008

"Take a Nibble Out of Crime"

The title of this post is the title of this reaction over at The New Republic to Senator Clinton's recently announced crime-fighting proposals.  Here are parts of the commentary:

Hillary Clinton gave a major policy speech on crime in Philadelphia one week ago.... Clinton's views on sentencing retroactivity, for the tens of thousands who have been locked up under the current cocaine guidelines, are of equal importance.  Commuting prisoner sentences to terms they would have served under the new law is, of course, the right thing to do.  But in Iowa, Clinton told viewers of the Black/Brown debate: "In principle I have problems with retroactivity," she said. "It's something a lot of communities will be concerned about as well." Which communities?  Why?

The drug wars, addressed intelligently on our site by former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, are not a by-the-wayside policy issue on which Clinton can smudge her former stances without scrutiny.  What's more, this anti-crime gambit looks to be an attempt to reverse a monthslong pattern of tacking rightward on criminal justice policy (back when Clinton still had a "general election strategy").  In New Hampshire, for example, Clinton tweaked Barack Obama for his liberal stance on "criminal defendants' rights" and his "extremely progressive record" in Chicago. Who knows to what that refers.

By the Philly address — never having answered that important question on retroactivity — Clinton was putting $1 billion up for grabs among states that want to commit resources to lowering rates of recidivism.  But being unjustly punished and backsliding into crime are not totally unrelated issues; longer jail terms erode workplace skills, fossilize social attitudes and drain meaningful support systems — all of which are critical to the well-being of a sucessful parolee.  That she would pay for her ambitious $4 billion plan by identifying "unnecessary and outdated corporate subsidies for elimination" (rather than housing and processing costs for thousands of crack offenders) only spotlights the blinders that make real reform in government seem like make-believe.

Some posts on crime and punishment and the 2008 campaign:

April 19, 2008 at 09:19 AM | Permalink

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Comments

This sentence doesn't make any sense.

That she would pay for her ambitious $4 billion plan by identifying "unnecessary and outdated corporate subsidies for elimination" (rather than housing and processing costs for thousands of crack offenders) only spotlights the blinders that make real reform in government seem like make-believe.

Posted by: | Apr 19, 2008 12:05:44 PM

I think the point is that there are likely much greater and achievable savings to be found by eliminating "unnecessary and outdated" incarceration terms for low-level crack offenders than by eliminating "unnecessary and outdated corporate subsidies."

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 19, 2008 12:17:39 PM

Who ever becomes our next President would be very wise to appoint Kurt Schmoke to a position that would help the American people make some sense of this stupid drug war that cannot be won.

Posted by: disenfranchised | Apr 19, 2008 4:31:44 PM

Why did Barack Obama decide to co-sponsor Joe Biden's crack-powder equalization bill that precludes retroactivity (S. 1711) instead of backing the House bill (H.R. 460)that at least is silent as to retroactivity? Biden's bill, co-sponsored now by both Hillary and Obama , also calls for up to an additional $72 million to DOJ in 2008/09 to prosecute drug offenses. (Of that, $30 million over 2 years goes to the DEA.) It also authorizes $40 million during 2008/09 for the Treasury and Homeland Security to prosecute drug offenses.

Posted by: TalkLeft | Apr 20, 2008 4:46:00 PM

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