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July 27, 2012

"The Right Sentencing: Conservatives backtrack on long prison sentences"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable piece by Michael Barone via the National Review Online. Here are excerpts:

Conservatives in increasing numbers are moving away from their decades-long support for long prison terms for criminals. Last year, Newt Gingrich, William Bennett, and Reagan attorney general Edwin Meese endorsed a “right on crime” initiative, calling for rehabilitation measures rather than prison sentences for nonviolent offenders. They joined liberals who have been dismayed that America has just about the highest rate of incarceration of any nation in history.

There’s little question that the vast increase in prison populations from the lows of the 1960s to the highs of recent decades has resulted in reduced crime. Violent offenders who are locked up can’t attack people outside. But it’s also true that crime rates stayed high for a couple of decades after prison populations started their vast increases. Better police tactics, pioneered by Rudy Giuliani and William Bratton in New York City and adapted by many others, played a major role.

Meanwhile, laws requiring mandatory minimum sentences have resulted in lengthy terms for many who are likely to be no threat to society. This has led conservatives such as anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist to endorse the Families Against Mandatory Minimums organization. It seems particularly unfair to many conservatives, as well as to liberals, that judges must sentence people possessing small amounts of marijuana to five-year terms when states with medical-marijuana dispensaries have de facto legalized the substance.

Some conservatives have taken such stands after serving in prison themselves, including the late Charles Colson, founder of the Prison Fellowship, and Pat Nolan, a former Republican California legislator. Nolan points out that conservatives such as Texas governor Rick Perry have turned down proposals to build new prisons and have stepped up drug-treatment programs instead....

[T]here’s a strong case to be made that stringent anti-crime measures that were, after some years, effective at reducing crime are no longer necessary now that violent-crime rates have gone down. So just as facts have prompted liberals to abandon stricter gun control, facts seem to be persuading conservatives to abandon tough anti-crime laws they once championed.

July 27, 2012 at 07:25 PM | Permalink


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Posted by: Generic Viagra | Jul 28, 2012 3:28:20 AM

Must be the mother of all dilemmas...anguishing that some citizens aren't getting punished harshly enough while fretting all the more over how much all that punishment costs. It's hard out there for a conservative.

Posted by: John K | Jul 28, 2012 9:27:20 AM

John K --

Actually, it isn't as hard as you might think. Conservatives accept the fact that life presents painful tradeoffs, and that choices among alternatives must be made. We're headed for national bankruptcy, so spending is going to have to get cut.

When liberals learn to apply this lesson to the real problem, namely runaway entitlement spending, then we might actually get somewhere.

In the meantime, I'll keep listening for the howling that goes up every time the public defender's budget gets cut along with the DA's. It's hard out there for a liberal.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 28, 2012 9:48:32 AM

Actually, each side to some degree accept life presents tradeoffs. Thankfully, there are people on both sides who realize this, and don't stereotype as some around here.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 28, 2012 11:43:26 AM

Right. The problem is we spend too much on the old, the poor and the sick...not that we fight unnecessary, unwinnable wars off-budget, lavish money on every armament manufacturer who turns up his palm and keep forts in the 200 or so countries that comprise the empire.

As for public defenders and their shoestrings budgets, it hardly seems fair to imply cuts PDs are likely to experience will cause pain commensurate to any cuts applied to DAs' relatively bloated, money-is-no-object budgets.

Still, I salute conservatives/Republicans as the unrivaled, all-time champions of demagoguery and Party dicipline. No one else is even close when comes to frightening, pissing off and garnering votes from the mouth-breathing, ill-informed masses who'd easily be better served by the other Party. Republicans are unmatched as well when it comes to butt-smooching the billionaires who actually run things...even as Democrats try hard to keep up.

So might as well also concede progressives/Democrats are perhaps the greatest assemblage of timid, cowardly, weak, ineffectual pols ever to exist on this planet.

Together they prove that -- whatever role actual public service might have played in earlier times -- today elective office amounts to little more than a jobs program for soulless parasites.

Posted by: John K | Jul 28, 2012 11:48:36 AM

Joe --

I couldn't help noticing, and maybe you couldn't either, that your lamenting the urge to stereotype was followed IMMEDIATELY by John K's wonderfully table-pounding stereotype of Republicans and office-holders.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 28, 2012 12:09:38 PM

...and Democrats.

Posted by: John K | Jul 28, 2012 12:39:43 PM


Hey, how've ya been!?

Sorry I been out on the prarie fer a spell - and couldn't get a good signal, excep for some occasional smoke over the horizon. I smelled somethin, an figgered ah better get on back and see what yer up to.

As ah see it - you are a king amung pawns around thishear blog, and jes like the royalty in England, there is pressure on you to jes sit in the stands and look nice and wave once in a wile, while everybody else get to do stuff. You have resisted this, and proudly display yer true no-doubt divinely inspired rightness on every possible occasion.

You should be in the Olympics of sentencing. In fact, ya should be up there on MT Olympus yerself, lookin down and throwin thunder sentencing bolts as needed - cuz the humans cain't do it no way on there own.

Thanks fer bein' up there.

Posted by: Al Ammo | Jul 28, 2012 1:44:30 PM

I must admit that this information is curious for me) I have never heard about such problem

Posted by: english proofreading | Jul 30, 2012 5:52:59 AM

"Conservatives accept the fact that life presents painful tradeoffs.... [¶] When liberals learn to apply this lesson to the real problem, namely runaway entitlement spending, then we might actually get somewhere."

Okay that’s funny.

Posted by: Michael Drake | Aug 1, 2012 12:40:58 PM

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