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August 6, 2015

Some (simple? tough?) questions on crime and punishment for the GOP field

Images (8)As detailed in some prior posts below, I have been gearing up for tonight's big GOP debate by suggesting criminal justice reform topics that I think should be a significant part of the conversation among all serious candidates for President. Here I want to turn to developing a few (pointed?) questions on these topics that might be asked of all the GOP candidates during tonight's planned festivities.

I seriously doubt the FoxNews moderators asking questions tonight regularly turn to this blog for help on how they do their jobs. But I am at least hopeful that a range of folks in social media might help ensure the mainstream media gives sufficient attention to crime and punishment topics throughout the 2016 election season. With that aspiration in mind, here are some questions I would like to see asked:

On prison policies: "The United States has 5% of the world's population but nearly 25% of the world's prisoners. Why do you think this is so, and do you think this is a national problem that a President should be trying to address?"

On state marijuana reform: "The decision by Colorado voters to legalize marijuana for adults has helped create tens of thousands of new jobs and considerable new tax revenues. President Obama's Justice Department has seemingly adopted a hands off approach concerning these sorts of state-level marijuana reforms. Would you continue or change this approach and why?"

On clemency practices: "For most of his presidency, Barack Obama was criticized for pardoning more turkeys than people. But now, after instructed his Justice Department to work harder identify good clemency candidates, his admininstration has hinted he could ultimately reduce federal prison terms for hundreds of non-violent drug offenders. What approach might you take as President in the exercise of your constitutional clemency powers?"

From Bill Otis via comments at Crime & Consequences: "Which more nearly reflects your view: That, as Attorney General Holder and some Republicans have said, we have too many people in prison for too long; or that we haven't yet done enough to keep criminals off the street?"

Of course, I welcome additional suggested questions via the comments to this post. And I am especially hopeful all folks seriously interested in serious discussion of criminal justice reform will join me in trying to ensure these kinds of issues get their due tonight and in all future debates throughout the 2016 campaign.

A few recent related posts:

August 6, 2015 at 10:48 AM | Permalink


On federal mandatory minimum reform efforts: "The Smarter Sentencing Act calls for the reduction and elimination of mandatory minimum penalties in drug cases. Do you support this legislation? If so, why? If not, why not?"

I am a professor/defense practitioner.

Posted by: Erica Zunkel | Aug 6, 2015 10:59:26 AM

There are 20 million FBI Index felonies a year. These do not include drug dealing.
There are 2 million prosecutions a year.

If you are a lawyer, discuss.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 6, 2015 6:21:42 PM

I have three related questions:
(1) The juvenile violent crime arrest rate fell more than 60% from 1991 through 2013 as the violent crime arrest rate for adults ages 50 and older increased: What government actions do you think could explain both of these trends?
(2) The incarceration rate for men ages 18-19 fell 60% from 2001 through 2013 as the incarceration rate for men ages 45-54 increased by 86%. What government actions do you think could explain both of these trends?
(3) From before WWII through 1970, the USA accounted for 70% of the global use of tetraethyl lead added to gasoline: Do you think this might explain why the USA accounts for a very disproportionate share of world prison population today?

Posted by: Rick Nevin | Aug 6, 2015 6:54:57 PM

Rick. I accepted your theory as one of many factors in the complex phenomenon of criminality. I did so after finding a study showing higher lead levels in prisoners. That linked lead and crime at the individual level rather than at the gross correlation level.

Prepare to answer this question.

As the fruit of the Booker cases, ending mandatory guidelines, is harvested right on time 5 years later, and the crime rate soars again, we will need to find a hidden source of lead.

My personal favorite of your claims. Bastardy is a major factor in criminality, yes. But, bastardy correlates with lead levels, except it is increasing, even in whites, now up to 40% in the 2010 Census.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 7, 2015 1:02:18 AM

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