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April 28, 2015

"Solutions: American Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice" (with some notable omissions)

The first part of the title of this post is the title of this fascinating new publication released today by the Brennan Center for Justice.  Here is how the 164-page text is described in an e-mail I received this morning:

In a remarkable cross-ideological effort, this book includes essays by public figures and experts who will play a leading role in the nation’s debate over the coming year.  The book contains original essays by Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Cory Booker, Chris Christie, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Cathy L. Lanier, Martin O’Malley, Janet Napolitano, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Bryan Stevenson, Scott Walker, and Jim Webb, among others.

In his foreword, former President William J. Clinton writes, “There is one area where we have a genuine chance at bipartisan cooperation: the over-imprisonment of people who did not commit serious crimes.  The drop in violence and crime in America has been an extraordinary national achievement.  But plainly, our nation has too many people in prison and for too long — we have overshot the mark.”

This book offers a first-of-its-kind preview of the solutions likely to be debated in the lead up to 2016. There is striking consensus around one idea: the need to reduce mass incarceration.  Solutions range from releasing low-level offenders waiting for trial to using federal grants to change police practices … from eliminating prison for low-level drug crimes to increasing mental health treatment.

This effort, spearheaded by our Justice Program director Inimai Chettiar, aims to elevate ending mass incarceration as a vital national issue in need of urgent attention. We look forward to your partnership in the months ahead — as these reforms are debated before the nation.

I am very interested in seeing what everyone in this new publication has to say, and I suspect the words of the presidential candidates in this collection will prove especially important in the months ahead. In short, this is must-read, perhaps especially as sad, harmful and disturbing events continue to unfold in Baltimore this week.

That all said, I must state that I am a bit put off by the fact that Bill Clinton authors the foreword without noting his own significant role in helping to encourage the adoption and preservation of, in his words, the "too many laws [that were] overly broad instead of appropriately tailored [which has resulted in] some [who] are in prison who shouldn’t be, others [who] are in for too long, and without a plan to educate, train, and reintegrate them into our communities." Relatedly, I am deeply disappointed that none of the other three living Presidents, all of whom have long and notable criminal justice track records (especially both President Bushes) are included in this important collection of "American Leaders" speaking out.

Particularly notable and disconcerting is the absence of anything in this collection by our most recent in former President, George W. Bush, especially in light of Bill Clinton's justifiable concerns about the importance of efforts to "educate, train, and reintegrate [former offenders] into our communities." As often highlighted on this blog (and in too few other places), President George W. called America "the land of second chance" in his 2004 State of the Union address while spotlighting prisoner re-entry issues and proposing "a four-year, $300 million prisoner re-entry initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups."

In his important 2004 SotU speech, President Bush compelling advocated that "when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life."  But now, more than a decade later, and thanks largely to the failings of both Congress and President Bush's successor in the Oval Office, there is still far too little attention given to the needs and challenges of former offenders.  President Bush highlighted 11 years ago that persons released from prison each year represented  "another group of Americans in need of help," but it seems only now have a number of other "American Leaders" gotten the message. 

April 28, 2015 at 11:05 AM | Permalink


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Most of the named individuals are lawyer abominations or grads of Big Government indoctrination camp Ivy schools. They are just silly and stupid.

Here is a legal way for the released to make 6 figures a year, with this win-win activity. Its legality has a brief analysis.


Once again, technology is the solution, not legal swill being peddled by self dealing lawyers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 28, 2015 2:54:51 PM

"original essay" and Joseph Biden are a contradiction in terms. Furthermore, he has been pro heavy sentencing and incarceration since before he began to get plugs for his head, cosmetic surgery and the dental plates---all on the taxpayer's dime for his career in bigmouthhood.
Rick Perry? What was his response when fire experts tried desperately to save a Texas convict's life, that the evidence at his trial was fatally flawed? Perry's eyeglasses are not going to propel him to thinkinghood.
Chris Christie? He's in the same league as Bill Clinton: there but for the grace of God.
Hillary: When she was First Lady, she engineered the IRS investigation of the travel office folks, then caused their indictments. They were all acquitted. BTW, Did she let Webster Hubbell take the fall?

Posted by: FluffyRoss | Apr 28, 2015 7:48:56 PM

I, along with most other citizens, are far more interested in the positions of individuals whom are either running for office, of which they would be able to actually affect current policy in a legislative or executive manner, or are eligible for nomination to judicial positions who will have direct adjudication of both the implementation and administration of the laws. A further subset of individuals can also exist whom are in advisory, department-level positions.

The positions of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are, in fact, advisory at best, as they don't formulate the upcoming arguments that presidential and congressional (as well as state gubornatorial) candidates provide in Brennan.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Apr 29, 2015 11:54:15 AM

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