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April 16, 2012

"Liberal Academic, Tea Party Leader Rethinking Crime Policy"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece appearing in Newsweek magazine.  Here is an excerpt:

As the son of an LAPD reserve policewoman turned Nevada County, Calif., corrections officer, [Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark] Meckler was always primed to be skeptical of the GOP’s tough-on-crime talking points. “Having grown up around law-enforcement folks, I know a large number who are very conservative and still think the war on drugs has been an immense failure,” he says. “That’s not a new position they’ve come to. I’ve been hearing this literally my whole life.”

But it wasn’t until he’d spent some time in the Tea Party, with its obsessive focus on balanced budgets and smaller government, that Meckler realized how well his conservative principles jibed with criminal-justice reform. It was all there, he says: a ballooning tab that was “busting state budgets”; a top-down, one-size-fits-all style of policing and imprisonment that was “making it hard for [former criminals] to become productive members of society”; and communities that had “lost the ability to take care of themselves” because they were “occupied” by agents of the state. “On the right, we always talk about self-governance,” Meckler explains. “So I thought, why haven’t we been applying those ideas to the criminal-justice system?”

He isn’t the only conservative to come to that conclusion. Inspired by the Tea Party ethos, heavyweight GOP governors such as Bobby Jindal and Mitch Daniels are now working to soften sentences, reduce recidivism, and cut costs in their home states. Meanwhile, Right on Crime, a Texas-based conservative group backed by Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush, and Grover Norquist, is championing reform on the national stage. As the outfit’s mission statement puts it, there’s nothing “conservative” about “spend[ing] vast amounts of taxpayer money on a strategy without asking whether it is providing taxpayers with the best public-safety return on their investment.” Right on Crime points to the Lone Star State — which recently reduced its incarceration rate by 8 percent, cut crime by 6 percent, and saved $2 billion on prison construction by rerouting inmates to drug courts and treatment facilities — as an example of where that mindset can lead.

Regular readers are probably tired of hearing me assert that tea party talk should lead to lots of questions about modern mass incarceration and the drug war in the US, but I am not tired of seeing the mainstream media (finally!) pick up on this (obvious?) reality.

Some prior related posts (both old and new) on this front:

April 16, 2012 at 06:28 PM | Permalink


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Aside from smaller government preferences, conservatives should see the foreign policy implication. The War on Drugs is a federal price support for the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and the Mexican Drug cartel. It also affects our balance of trade. Billions should be going to American tobacco companies, with proper taxation, instead of going into funding attacks on our military, and destroying our friends' governments abroad.

If I were a member of the Mexican Drug Cartel, I would buy a legitimate American business, such as a grocery store. Then that business would send campaign contributions to elect strong advocates of the War on Drugs. Such advocates should be investigated for such wrongful funding sources, and charged with an violation. they commit. An US Attorney got up at a conference and boasted that he was protecting our neighborhoods by his vigorous campagns of enforcement. That guy should be investigated for his being on the take from Mexicans.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 17, 2012 6:42:52 AM

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