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March 23, 2018

Brennen Center releases new report: "Criminal Justice: An Election Agenda for Candidates, Activists, and Legislators"

The Brennan Center today released this notable new report titled, "Criminal Justice: An Election Agenda for Candidates, Activists, and Legislators." Here is its executive summary reprinted here:

This report sets forth an affirmative agenda to end mass incarceration in America.  The task requires efforts from both federal and state lawmakers.

Today, criminal justice reform stands on a knife’s edge.  After decades of rising incarceration and ever more obvious consequences, a powerful bipartisan movement has emerged. It recognizes that harsh prison policies are not needed to keep our country safe.

Now that extraordinary bipartisan consensus is challenged by the Trump administration, through inflammatory rhetoric and unwise action.  Only an affirmative move to continue reform can keep the progress going.

The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, but nearly one quarter of its prisoners. About 2.1 million people are incarcerated in this country, the vast majority in state and local facilities.  Mass incarceration contributes significantly to the poverty rate. It is inequitable, placing a disproportionate burden on communities of color. It is wildly expensive, in some cases costing more to keep an 18-year-old in prison than it would to send him to Harvard.  Our criminal justice system costs $270 billion annually, yet does not produce commensurate public safety benefits.

Research conclusively shows that high levels of imprisonment are simply not necessary to protect communities.  About four out of every ten prisoners are incarcerated with little public safety justification.  In fact, 27 states have reduced both imprisonment and crime in the last decade.  A group of over 200 police chiefs, prosecutors, and sheriffs has formed, whose founding principles state: “We do not believe that public safety is served by a return to tactics that are overly punitive without strong purpose . . . we cannot incarcerate our way to safety.”

In cities, states, and at the federal level, Republicans and Democrats have joined this effort.  They recognize that today’s public safety challenges demand new and innovative politics rooted in science and based on what works. The opioid epidemic, mass shootings, and cyber-crime all require modern responses that do not repeat mistakes of the past.

Crime is no longer a wedge issue, and voters desire reform.  A 2017 poll from the Charles Koch Institute reveals that 81 percent of Trump voters consider criminal justice reform important.  Another, from Republican pollster Robert Blizzard, finds that 87 percent of Americans agree that nonviolent offenders should be sanctioned with alternatives to incarceration.  And according to a 2017 ACLU poll, 71 percent of Americans support reducing the prison population — including 50 percent of Trump voters.

But the politician with the loudest megaphone has chosen a different, destructive approach.  Donald Trump, and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, falsely insist there is a national crime wave, portraying a country besieged by crime, drugs, and terrorism — “American carnage,” as he called it in his inaugural address.

But, crime in the United States remains at historic lows.  While violent crime and murder did increase in 2015 and 2016, new data show crime and violence declining again in 2017. The national murder rate is approximately half of what it was at its 1991 peak.  Those who seek to use fear of crime for electoral gain are not just wrong on the statistics; they are also wrong on the politics.

Now, to continue the progress that has been made, it is up to candidates running for office to boldly advance policy solutions backed by facts, not fear.  This report offers reforms that would keep crime low, while significantly reducing incarceration.  Most solutions can be enacted through federal or state legislation.  While most of the prison population is under control of state officials, federal policy matters too.  The federal government’s prison population is larger than that of any state.  Further, Washington defines the national political conversation on criminal justice reform.  And although states vary somewhat in their approach to criminal justice, they struggle with similar challenges. The state solutions in this report are broadly written as “models” that can be adapted.

Steps to take include:

• Eliminating Financial Incentives for Incarceration

• Enacting Sentencing Reform

• Passing Sensible Marijuana Reform

• Improving Law Enforcement

• Responding to the Opioid Crisis

• Reducing Female Incarceration

March 23, 2018 at 04:31 PM | Permalink


This is an insult to the intelligence, with billions of internet crimes taking $billions.

Posted by: David Behar | Mar 25, 2018 1:41:26 AM

At the top of the list should have been Gun Control. The only times we hear that a gun HAS been used to deter crime or protect life in private hands, too often there is controversy or clear evidence that the situation did NOT justify it. When a life is lost in error or unnecessarily in private revenge, there is no recompense. In situations of mass threat, like the school shootings, the damage and loss of life happens before any realistic response with firearms can be made from anyone present.
Guns belong under lock and key at shooting ranges and for use as sport. Leave the police to protect life.
Those eligble to own guns for hunting should be subject to the stringent tests for ownership. Those living in urban areas should not be permitted to participate in sport hunting.
Accompany all that with an amnesty applicable for just 3 months and demand that all guns must be turned over at local enforcement locations or for lock-up at shooting ranges, or in the case of hunting claims, renew registration checks over the next 6 months and thereafter annually.
Wow, what a revolutionary idea. Do your children and grandchildren not deserve this? To live without the fear of being shot?

Posted by: peter | Mar 25, 2018 6:45:11 AM

Peter. That is the Democratic platform, depend on worthless government workers who run from the scene of the ongoing mass killing. That is the policy of the lawyer, to crush public self help. They are betraying our country for a few lousy, low paying jobs.

With billions of crimes a year, only public self help can attenuate massive criminality, in the billions each year, caused by your big government dependency. I support the killing of unauthorized hackers by victims. I support the killing of repeat violent offenders, on the spot, by the public. Beyond immunizing such homicide, the government should pay the public $10,000 each, because of adding $millions in value to the economy by the killing.

Peter is falling for the hysterical news coverage by biased, and unethical journalists. These Democratic Party operatives did not say, as they should have, "65 million owners of 270 million guns did nothing wrong today." These biased, hate speech, propaganda spewers are violating their own Code of Ethics. They are lower in morality than the avowed hater, David Duke. He avows his hate honestly. Do not be like a journalist.

There are people lower in morality than lawyers. Serial child rapists and murderers, and journalists.

Posted by: David Behar | Mar 25, 2018 9:35:36 AM

What powerful powerful bipartisan movement?

Posted by: John Neff | Mar 25, 2018 2:04:51 PM

peter's proposals at least in part (lock and key at sporting ranges ... a trigger lock wasn't even allowed) by the Supreme Court in two gun rights cases.

"Those living in urban areas should not be permitted to participate in sport hunting."

What if the guns used were under lock in key at the hunting areas? I'm inclined to think that in theory at least certain types of guns should be limited to target ranges, select storage areas & hunting zones. Likewise, if a simple shotgun is used, hunting in at least certain urban areas (that have some wildlife) might be warranted.

I'm not a big fan of hunting generally, to be clear, but in theory.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 25, 2018 10:51:37 PM

Also, I just put it out there. I'm not assuming this would be a major aspect of crime policy. Guns would be an aspect of it though.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 25, 2018 10:53:18 PM

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