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by Peter Moskos

November 15, 2016

Criminal Justice Reform in the Age of Trump

Over at the Cato Institute, Steven Teles wrote a piece about conservatives and how we can de-incarcerate. A group of people, myself included, are writing response pieces. Here is mine:
A few years back, for a brief while, it really did seem as if conservative Republicans were interested in reducing the number of prisoners in America. Teles argues that once conservatives get in a position of political omnipotence, they don’t have liberals to kick around anymore. Political control brings policy ownership. Without fear of political defeat or being labeled “soft on crime,” conservatives are free to judge prisons on cost, effectiveness, and even morality.
...
There are indeed some extremely low-hanging fruits of de-incarceration, some truly nonviolent offenders and others who may have been ignorant of the crime they committed. [But] to return to pre-1980 levels of incarceration in America, 80 percent of prisoners would have to be released. This will not happen.
...
On crime and police, the first steps in incarceration, Democrats in the past two years were eager to abandon 20 years of generally pro-police policy dating back to Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Trump’s victory could allow the left (at least the moderate left) to shift from the #BlackLivesMatter police-are-the-problem mentality to one more focused on actually preventing crime.... Had Hillary Clinton won the election, an unprecedented two-year 25 percent increase in nationwide homicide since 2014 would certainly have revived crime as a wedge issue and placed Democrats on the defensive. It still may. The coming days could be dark indeed.

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