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March 23, 2016

Notable new comments and commitments on criminal justice reform from GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan

160323-paulryan-1404_923bb8d76407e0b58fd5c662ccf6c762.nbcnews-fp-1200-800This notable new article about a notable new speech by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, headlined "Paul Ryan just gave a remarkably candid speech and admitted one of his biggest policy mistakes," has significantly increased my optimism about some form of federral sentencing reform moving forward in Congress this year.  Here are the details:

House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a candid speech about the "State of American Politics" on Wednesday, during which he admitted that he too hasn't always lived up to what he believes is a high-standard of political discourse.

A member of the audience asked Ryan after the speech if he had been persuaded differently on any policy position he has held and was willing to admit he was wrong.

Ryan — who earlier repeated an apology he had made in 2014 for a past statement about America's supposed "makers and takers" when discussing poverty in the country — said he had been wrong about criminal justice. "One of the things that I learned is that there are a lot of people who've been in prison that committed crimes that were not violent crimes," he said. "Once they have that mark on their record, their future is really bleak."

He said that, when he came to Congress in the late 1990s, he was a staunch supporter of tough crime laws. He admitted that both his own party and Democrats overcompensated at the time. The policies, he said, "end up ruining their lives and hurting their communities where we could've have alternative means of incarceration, instead of basically destroying someone's life. I've become a late convert."

"Criminal-justice reform is something I never thought of when I was younger," he continued. "Be tough on crime, be tough on crime." Ryan said criminal-justice reform bills would be brought to the House floor soon. He pledged to "advance this."

"I didn't necessarily know this before, but redemption is a beautiful thing. It's a great thing," he said. "Redemption is what makes this place work. We need to honor redemption. We need to make redemption something that is valued in our culture and our society and in our laws."

Ryan's candid comments on poverty and criminal-justice reform came at the end of a powerful speech about the current discourse in American politics, which he lamented would end up making Americans "distrust institutions" and "lose faith in government."

March 23, 2016 at 06:58 PM | Permalink


Of coarse Ryan is from Wisconsin, where men are men and politicians are tagged as worthless overhead for society.

Hes a good man, smart and and has a pair and nit afraid to stand up tall.

Go Paul. Need more guys like him. Not to sell Sen Grassley short, he to is a good man.

Just been around for 14 yrs too long. Bob retire, watch the corn grow.

All in all, the guidelines are very slowly getting dismantled, very slowly. Each bit helps someone get out and hopefully a certain pcnt make it. About 1/3 do. Hey, they end up getting a job and paying taxes, thats what we want them to do, right.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Mar 23, 2016 11:09:57 PM

Grassley may be an ok guy, but his 40 year career in Congress says he's a leech. Symbolic of the worst of American politics.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Mar 24, 2016 12:39:17 AM

"There are a lot of people who've been in prison that committed crimes that were not violent crimes...."

True, but what's your point? Is "violent" crime the only crime worthy of stiff punishment? Bernie Madoff committed a non-violent crime. But, he ruined the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people. A guy who punches another guy during a bar fight has committed a "violent" crime. Is he, therefore, necessarily deserving of a longer period of incarceration than a fraudster who never committed a "violent" act? We should incarcerate criminals who harm others and harm society. And, as Madoff demonstrated a criminal can cause immeasurable harm without committing a single act of violence. The same goes for a drug dealer--he can kill kids without ever laying a finger on them. That doesn't mean his conduct isn't harmful and worthy of stiff punishment.

Posted by: Hmm... | Mar 24, 2016 6:39:37 AM

Hmm, you make good sense. Madoff was a terrible excuse for a human.

Fat guy, I dont know about Grassleys record. Only know at 86 yrs of age, he shouldnt be representing anyone. How do we gar fresh new forward thinking ideas, when he needs 4 naps during the day to get by. We just stay stagnent with same old methods.

We need to get term & age limits on politicians. Especially the party whips.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Mar 24, 2016 10:21:03 AM

Grassley is 82.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 24, 2016 11:12:35 AM

"Overcompenstion". What a nice word for cowardice. I was always taught that conservatives believed tis better the kiss not made than the awkward explanation afterward. How exactly does one un-ruin a life? Redemption is a lot of meaningless blather. It is designed to make the powerful feel better about what they have done, rather than any meaningful way to address the harms they continue to do.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 24, 2016 7:05:16 PM

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