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November 9, 2022

So, does anyone already have "hot takes" on what election results might mean for criminal justice reforms?

Because votes are still being counted nationwide and especially because control of the US Senate may not be resolved until a Georgia run off in December, it is way too early to make any confident predictions about the national policy landscape for the next few months or the next few years.  But with marijuana reform getting mixed results in five states — winning in the big states of Maryland and Missouri, losing in the smaller states of Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota — there is already a basis to make a lot of mixed predictions about the short- and long-term future of marijuana reforms.  Likewise, with crime and punishment being a big part of lots of other candidate campaigns that have been called, maybe it is not too early for folks to have interesting views on what the 2022 election means for crime and punishment issues in 2023 and beyond.

So, dear readers, please feel free to use the comments to flag any especially notable races (or exit polls) that you think are especially important for informed political or policy view on criminal justice issues post-election 2022.  And, as the title of this post suggests, "hot takes" are more than welcome.

November 9, 2022 at 08:58 AM | Permalink


Missouri was a mixed bag for criminal justice reform. On the one hand, a rather complicated recreational marijuana amendment narrowly passed. On the other hand, in response to Kansas City engaging in behavior characterized by some as defunding the police, voters gave the Republican controlled General Assembly control over the percentage of the Kansas City budget that goes to its police department (which is run by a state-appointed board).

The bottom line is that voters do not appear to care about marijuana but do want to get tough on crime.

Posted by: tmm | Nov 9, 2022 11:00:42 AM

"The bottom line is that voters do not appear to care about marijuana but do want to get tough on crime."


My only other observation is that, with the Rs narrowly in the majority in the House, there won't be any major "criminal justice reform" legislation for the next two years.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 9, 2022 11:38:55 AM

Bill, the last "major" criminal justice reform at the federal level was the FIRST STEP Act, passed when both houses of Congress were controlled by the GOP and Donald Trump was Prez. Meanwhile, the last two years with full Democrat control has produced ZERO enacted CJ reform legislation (let alone any major ones).

That said, I do share your sense that recent concerns about rising crime makes it unlikely that we will see major "criminal justice reform" legislation in Congress in the next two years. But I do wonder if we might actually see some minor reforms have a better chance moving forward with divided government. Still, like you, I am certainly not expecting anything close to the GOP/Trump's major 2018 FIRST STEP ACT criminal justice reform achievement.

Posted by: Doug B | Nov 9, 2022 12:59:13 PM

Doug --

Glad you brought up DJT, who took quite a pasting last night. My take on his "reforms" is here: https://ringsideatthereckoning.substack.com/p/where-republicans-got-it-wrong-on

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 9, 2022 2:29:05 PM

Doug, I agree. Democrats are blamed to be soft on crime, and Republicans say they are the ones who will use all kinds of severe punishment. And yet, the mass incarceration comes from Bill Clinton's presidency, and Biden was the one who made it even worse. That's why some say Biden owes it to the US to undo what he's done and put an end to mass incarceration. In the meantime, the biggest criminal justice reform was Trump's First Step Act. Maybe all these people believe what they are saying, but they for sure don't do what they say.

Posted by: Anna | Nov 10, 2022 1:06:56 AM

Forgot to mention, I am just a regular person. Not a legal professional or student. Have a family member who is about to be incarcerated. Heartbroken and sad to see that the criminal justice system here is meant to punish without regard to either the safety of the public or the well being of the defendant. It's all about revenge.

Posted by: Anna | Nov 10, 2022 1:09:32 AM

The greatest question of this era is what is meant by the term "tough on crime." The Democrats don't appear to have any cogent plan on to address needed reform versus some form of moderation on public protection as it relates to deterrence. As for Republicans, they willfully ignore the terroristic acts committed by right-wingers such as those who continuously threaten the safety of the public through destabilization of our democracy. Instead, they focus on "inner-city" crime in an effort to frighten voters using criminal acts by people of a 'certain' color. This is the very worst form of hypocrisy---one that is literally destroying the country. So, in a word, the election did not tell me other thing other than we have so far to go as it relates to creating that 'more perfect union' envisioned by the Framers (who were predominantly slaveowners).

Posted by: Eric A. Hicks | Nov 10, 2022 6:42:19 AM

I think that in this current political environment, no reform that does not have significant Republican buy-in has a chance at getting through Congress. If there is not significant Republican support, the votes aren't there to overcome the filibuster rules in the Senate. Additionally, Democrats in swing districts are going to be reluctant to move forward if there is not bipartisan support out of fear of the proposal being used against them in a campaign ad with no chance of actually passing the bill (due to the filibuster).

While it is easy to condemn the 90s legislation in hindsight, it was a typical bipartisan bill which included some reforms but also some provisions that needed to be included to pass the legislation.

I would also add that, probably, the biggest obstacle to further reforms are white collar crimes. Republicans think it is too easy for a business to be found guilty of regulatory offenses and want changes to those offenses in any crime packet. Democrats want to increase enforcement of some of those offenses and will oppose those changes. I'm not seeing any set of trade-offs on the table that would cause the Republicans to proceed forward with any bill that did not include such changes or would cause the Democrats to agree to those changes in exchange for other reforms.

Posted by: tmm | Nov 10, 2022 11:53:32 AM

I'm cynical. It often appears that many studies are done to validate an unspoken political bias.

I don't fear a republican administration because the biggest increase in Federal incarnation occurred during a democratic administration. This was during the Clinton Administration.

The biggest decrease came during the Trump Administration. During the first five years of the Obama Administration the federal prison population increased by over 19,000 people. During the four years of the Trump administration the federal prison population decreased by almost 40,000. Since Biden has taken office, the federal prison population has risen again.

Posted by: beth curtis | Nov 10, 2022 12:01:11 PM

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