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January 5, 2017

Prez Obama produces lengthy Harvard Law Review article titled "The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform"

I am intrigued and surprised (and concerned that I will soon be very aggravated) by this lengthy new Harvard Law Review article authored by Barack Obama.  In style (because the article runs 50+ pages with 300+ footnotes), the article hints that Prez Obama is interested in going back to being a law professor after he finishes his current gig.  In substance, the article's introduction provides this overview: 

Part I details the current criminal justice landscape and emphasizes the urgent need for reform.  It would be a tragic mistake to treat criminal justice reform as an agenda limited to certain communities.  All Americans have an interest in living in safe and vibrant neighborhoods, in raising their children in a country of equal treatment and second chances, and in entrusting their liberty to a justice system that remains true to our highest ideals.  We simply cannot afford to spend $80 billion annually on incarceration, to write off the seventy million Americans — that’s almost one in three adults — with some form of criminal record, to release 600,000 inmates each year without a better program to reintegrate them into society, or to ignore the humanity of 2.2 million men and women currently in U.S. jails and prisons and over 11 million men and women moving in and out of U.S. jails every year.  In addition, we cannot deny the legacy of racism that continues to drive inequality in how the justice system is experienced by so many Americans.

Part II shows how the President can drive significant reform at the federal level.  Working with Congress, my Administration helped secure bipartisan sentencing reform legislation reducing the crack-topowder-cocaine disparity.  As an executive branch, we’ve been able to make important changes to federal charging policies and practices, the administration of federal prisons, and federal policies relating to reentry.  And through the presidential pardon power, I have commuted the sentences of more than 1000 prisoners.  Even though there are important structural and prudential constraints on how the President can directly influence criminal enforcement, these changes illustrate that presidential administrations can and do shape the direction of the federal criminal justice system in lasting and profound ways.

Part III details the approaches that Presidents can take to promote change at the state and local level, recognizing that the state and local justice systems tend to have a far broader and more pervasive impact on the lives of most Americans than does the federal justice system.  While the President and the executive branch play a less direct role in these systems, there are still opportunities — as my Administration’s work demonstrates — to advance reform through a combination of federal-local partnerships, the promulgation of best practices, enforcement, federal grant programs, and assembling reform-minded jurisdictions struggling with similar challenges.

Part IV highlights some of the work that remains, focusing on reforms that are supported by broad consensus and could be completed in the near term.  These include passing bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation in Congress, adopting commonsense measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a threat to others or themselves, finding better ways to address the tragic opioid epidemic in this country, implementing critical reforms to forensic science, improving criminal justice data, and using technology to enhance trust in and the effectiveness of law enforcement.

I fear I will be aggravated by this article because it will confirm that Prez Obama (or his staff who helped author this article) truly understands the need to major criminal justice reforms and yet so relatively little got achieved on this front during Prez Obama's eight yesr in office. Also, I know I am already going to be troubled by what is not said in this article because a quick word search reveals that the word "marijuana" is not mentioned once even though state-level marijuana reform is by far the biggest criminal justice reform story of the Obama era (which, to the Obama Administration's credit, was in part fueled by his Justice Department's express hands off policy).

January 5, 2017 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

Comments

"Prez Obama is interested in going back to being a law professor after he finishes his current gig."

Oh have no fear of THAT. He intends to "raise the next generation of liberal leaders" as if he were a mother hen. I can't imagine why if one where a liberal interested in leadership one would pay any attention to what that man says given--as Doug correctly notes--how little leadership he demonstrated while in office.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 5, 2017 12:11:02 PM

Yes, it didn't require "leadership" to for example advance the rights of gay people in various ways. Unlike some people here, Obama is very popular, besides you know being elected twice including by some of the people necessary to elect Trump. He would logically be an important voice in the Democratic Party.

This is a sentencing blog, so it is far from surprising (if a tad myopic) if the person who runs it focuses on how Obama (who has so few things on his plate, so I realize it is shocking he did so little here, aside from what he did do including helping the health needs of the people in question) didn't do as much as desired on that subject.

PRESIDENT Obama focused more on the various other things involved. It is a lot easier to write law review articles than actually carry out policy, especially when Republicans block even things they support because Obama supports it.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 5, 2017 1:03:20 PM

A glance at the article points out various things he did as well suggests the barriers (e.g., he did certain things involving guns while other efforts were blocked in Congress). Criticism is fine if done in a fair way. Plus, it is appreciated he and his administration took the time to write the document, only a portion of which covers his own actions.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 5, 2017 1:11:44 PM

was he a professor or a lecturer?

Posted by: federalist | Jan 5, 2017 3:11:54 PM

@Joe

"Yes, it didn't require "leadership" to for example advance the rights of gay people in various ways."

Obvious troll is obvious. But you do try, bless your little heart.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 5, 2017 3:30:13 PM

Reform? Second chances? Reintegration? Fine words coming from the man who signed International Megan's Law. What a hypocrite.

Posted by: Former Dem | Jan 5, 2017 3:51:17 PM

"These include passing bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation in Congress, adopting commonsense measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are a threat to others or themselves, finding better ways to address the tragic opioid epidemic in this country, implementing critical reforms to forensic science, improving criminal justice data, and using technology to enhance trust in and the effectiveness of law enforcement."

keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals? Hmmm, here's a thought, prosecute criminals who have guns--but he's dropped criminal prosecutions of felons with guns. And as for addressing opioid addiction--perhaps he could have, you know, done his job, and done more to secure the border.

Obama is a bad joke and a rotten person. We are truly blessed to be rid of this pseudo-intellectual urbane effete twit.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 5, 2017 5:14:07 PM

From the U. Chicago website

The Law School has received many media requests about Barack Obama, especially about his status as "Senior Lecturer."

From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School's Senior Lecturers has high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.

Posted by: Andrew | Jan 5, 2017 5:21:30 PM

Joe,

Do you not find it interesting (and telling) that Obama opted not to write a law review article about "advance[ing] the rights of gay people in various ways" or about health insurance reform or about so many other things he obviously had "on his plate" over eight years? I do not disagree that Obama properly can and likely will be remembered as a successful and popular president, but in the arena of criminal justice reform he was largely content mostly to "lurk" for his entire first term and thereafter he used precious little of his political capital or popularity to see to do anything truly ground-breaking or game-changing in this space.

You can make a fine case that it was politically wise and practically effective for Obama to use his political capital and popularity to focus on other concerns. But this article reads a bit like a "victory lap" when the Obama era barely go out of the blocks when it came to significant sentencing/criminal justice reform.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 5, 2017 5:44:08 PM

A fellow member of the Harvard Law Review described President Obama as shiftless. He did no actual work himself as President of the Law Review.

One has to wonder if he wrote this article. It looks like it took some real work to complete. And, it does not reflect his actions as President. One has to ask if he even read it before submission.

His Presidency achieved some Draconian consent decrees with police departments. These have deterred, not just the signing departments, but all police departments across the country. These decrees, and the over-regulation of the police, have resulted in their leaning back, and relaxing more. Just answer the 911 calls. Wait for the retirement date. If you do any more than that, you get crushed by Obama's Department of Justice.

This anti-police jihad by Obama is a major factor in the murders of an excess of hundreds of young black males over the expected number. So he achieved something significant. He killed hundreds of young black males by the policies not described in the article.

Harvard Law Review articles are reviewed by law students. Imagine surgical journal articles reviewed by second year medical students. Imagine bridge engineering articles reviewed by second year civil engineering students. The law review students, Harvard's very best, were too stupid to demand a revision, to include real world consequences of the crime reform policies of this President. I do believe there are mitigating factors in the stupidity of the Harvard Law review editors. They underwent a course of Harvard Law 1L. Their culpability is mitigated by its mentally crippling effects.

Posted by: David Behar | Jan 6, 2017 3:27:35 AM

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