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July 17, 2015

Gov Christie joins growing chorus of GOP leaders urging reform of "broken" criminal justice system

Download (15)As highlighted by this Politico report, headlined "Chris Christie calls for ‘fresh approach’ to criminal justice," the only GOP presidential candidate with a long history as a federal prosecutor has now joined the ever-growing group of mainstream Republican voices advocating for significant criminal justice reform. Here are the basics of what the New Jersey Governor has to say on this front:

Chris Christie, decrying the large number of Americans in prison, on Thursday said it’s time to fix what he called “a broken criminal justice system.”

“Today, our prisons contain more people than any other nation in the world – 25 percent of the world’s prisoners,” the New Jersey governor and 2016 presidential candidate said in a speech in Camden, New Jersey. “I believe in American exceptionalism, but that’s not an achievement I think any of us want.”

Christie’s call for action came almost at the same time as President Barack Obama’s tour of a federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma on Thursday as part of his administration’s push for criminal justice reform.

In recent months, a series of deaths of unarmed black men by white law enforcement officers, and resulting riots, has sparked a national discussion about racial tensions, policing, and the U.S. prison system. It’s given a boost to a rare bipartisan push on justice reform, especially mandatory minimum sentences that disproportionately affect minority communities.

On Thursday, Christie talked about the importance of getting violent criminals off the streets, but he said harsh prison sentences don’t solve everything. “Peace on our streets is more than just the absence of violence. Justice isn’t something we can jail our way to. Justice is something we have to build in our communities,” Christie said.

He also framed his argument in terms of conservative values. “I happen to be pro-life, and I believe very strongly in the sanctity of life,” Christie said. “But I believe that if you’re going to be pro-life, then you ought to care about life beyond the womb. An unborn child is life. But life is also that 16 year-old addict lying on the floor of the county lockup.”

Specifically, Christie pointed to his own record in New Jersey as a path forward. He said New Jersey’s drug court program works, calling it a policy that keeps people out of prison and saves money. He said if he becomes president he will replicate it on the national level.

“Drug court is about making every one of our citizens long-term productive members of society again – because we should want that for everyone,” Christie said. He said that first time offenders of non-violent crimes should get treatment and non-custodial sentencing options. He also said that when people are put behind bars there needs to be a plan for rehabilitation for when they get out.

I am particularly intrigued to hear a GOP Presidential candidate with a long history as a federal prosecutor (and whose campaign slogan is "telling it like it is") now calling our criminal justice system broken. Another long-time former federal prosecutor, Bill Otis, has frequently taken to Crime & Consequences to complain when former Attorney General Eric Holder said our current system is broken. And in a comment dialogue following his latest posting in this arena, Bill seemed to suggest that some establishment Republicans may only be pretending that they share such a view in order to get campaign dollars from the Koch brothers. But given Gov. Christie's personal background and campaign themes, I would be really surprised if he would now be saying the system is broken if he did not really believe it.

July 17, 2015 at 12:14 PM | Permalink


I have to go farther than Bill. My high school education and common sense were not eradicated like those of Christie in his mentally incapacitating law education. Plus I did not get a paycheck or job security from a high crime rate.

Facts have no influence when it comes to generating lawyer jobs. That means the carceral nation people are arguing in bad faith like deniers.

Fact. The adjudicated charge is always down from the real crime.

Fact. All career dealers are serial killers of competitors and deadbeats. This fact caused the surge in murder during the crack epidemic. It was depicted in the true story in American Gangster.

Fact. There is lawyer unemployment. Something must be done by law school victim, Chris Christie.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 17, 2015 3:28:02 PM


by Margaret Love, former U.S. Pardon Attorney (1990-1997)

Posted by: Joe | Jul 17, 2015 5:43:12 PM

Christie's drug court fantasies. "He said New Jersey’s drug court program works, calling it a policy that keeps people out of prison and saves money. He said if he becomes president he will replicate it on the national level."

Drug court reality. One third of defendants did not have drug addiction to begin with. Only 20% had progressively negative urines.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 17, 2015 9:53:45 PM

Christie has postured himself as a professional prosecutor. But as a recent New Yorker article showed, he was really a political backscratcher who did enough favors to get named US Attirney -- he wasn't a career prosecutor and has little apparent experience in the trenches.

Posted by: OPD | Jul 18, 2015 10:24:07 AM

He has to "frame" the issue because he has almost no track record of reform. Lots of talk now, but many years as gov and a drug court to show for his commitment to CJ reform. Promising.

Posted by: Paul | Jul 19, 2015 8:35:10 PM

I have trouble giving any credibility to Christie. There is something about him that is phony. He needs to quit using up so much of the Earth's food supply.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jul 20, 2015 9:54:47 PM

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