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October 7, 2008

Could tonight's town hall debate finally bring up crime and punishment issues?

I am consistently disappointed whenever I start hoping the Presidential candidates will talk seriously about crime and punishment issues.  Nevertheless, my single-issue-blogger hope springs eternal, and perhaps the town hall setting for tonight's debate could help facilitate some discussion of the death penalty or the Second Amendment or mass incarceration or federal drug sentences.  But I am not holding my breath.

Interestingly, as detailed in this AP report and this official press release, the International Association of Chiefs of Police was recently able to get both candidates to responded to six written questions on "crime, terrorism and homeland security."  The Q&A can be accessed in this pdf from the October issue of Police Chief Magazine.  Here is how the AP summarized the answers:

Obama promised to restore funding to the popular Community Oriented Policing Services, commonly called COPS, and Byrne Justice Assistance grants, which local departments use to hire officers. These grants have seen significant cuts since the beginning of the Bush administration. Obama also said he would put in place "innovative" youth crime prevention programs and prisoner re-entry programs....

Republican John McCain also supports prison re-entry programs.  But he did not mention COPS or Byrne grants. Instead, he promised to "restore credibility" to the existing grant programs, get rid of earmarks and give funding to the communities that need it — a similar approach to what is being done in the current administration when distributing homeland security grants.  McCain would also work to improve the economy and unemployment rate as a way to reduce crime.

Some related posts:

UPDATE:  Yawn.... A series of rehashed points from stump speeches masquerading as a town hall discussion.  Another disappointing discussion that did not cover any new ground.  Oh well.

October 7, 2008 at 04:47 PM | Permalink


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What about a law against lawmakers passing unconstitutional laws in violation of their oaths of office? Every time the SCOTUS finds all or part of a law unconstitutional, everyone who voted for it goes to jail. How 'bout that?

Posted by: | Oct 7, 2008 6:23:14 PM

According to the Onion, that's a silly suggestion.

Posted by: | Oct 7, 2008 9:49:27 PM

Obama definitely won tonight's debate. He answered all questions with outstanding clarity and detail. He showed his usual realism and idealism. He was respectful and powerful. He won on all points. McCain's tired repetition that he is the only one who understands foreign affairs has been totally exposed as utter nonsense.

Obama is a great statesman. If any leader can bring us out of this crisis and back to our former status, he is the one to do it.
I will be thrilled to have Obama as president.

Posted by: Andrea Jones | Oct 7, 2008 11:12:45 PM

No one is talking about the drain on our economy by the prison-industrial complex. We incarcerate 40 times more people than any civilized country. We have the same number of prisoners as China. We use prisons to avoid treating addicts and mental illness and to warehouse these people. We say we are tough on crime but do nothing to decrease crime in reality. Most of the people in prison will get out and without rehabilitation and education and opportunities for jobs and life with dignity - having forever to bear the burden and hidden costs that were not part of the sentence of being an ex-con, but are part of the reality of it, they generally are not productive citizens and end up using the "revolving door." Our crime rates will not drop without rehabilitation as the numbers of released inmates take a giant leap after years of increased rates of incarceration. This costs a great deal for police departments who initiate the arrest, the courts, prosecuting and defense attorney offices, cost of incarceration and medical treatment of incarcerated, lost productivity and taxes from the incarcerated, lost productivity from the court personnel and prison guards and staff who could be advancing our society with high tech, technology and other jobs, social services for the prisoner's families and for them when they get out, and for our reputation as a country of laws. When are the candidates going to discuss these costs and make a plan for fixing the problem, including treating addiction as an illness, providing parity for mental health care, having a national health plan where there is no one who is uninsured and cannot access mental health care, making rehabilitation and community service and alternative sentencing a priority, and ending the death penalty that has no redeeming value except for vengeance which I don't consider redeeming? We are imploding as a society because of this immorality and injustice.

Posted by: Dr Linda Shelton | Oct 8, 2008 7:41:35 AM

Ms. Jones, First of all, it is not clear whether you are a lawyer or not. Second of all, since you don’t have any criteria for “winning” the debate, you seem to be relying on political rhetoric. Not just political rhetoric, but partisan rhetoric. This is immature.

Someone will win the election. If you really cared about serving your clients you would already have developed relationships with future political appointees in both potential administrations, rather than voting like some loser.

And come on, is it really good politics to talk to the little people about letting poor criminal out of jail? Even if it makes good policy it is not something to be talked about.

But hey, so long as you think it should be talked about, why didn’t the candidates address Booker and its progeny? Or Crawford? These are real criminal justice issues, too.

Posted by: S.cotusS | Oct 8, 2008 5:02:39 PM

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