Saturday, November 28, 2015

National politics and a softer approach to crime and punishment

In a stunning turn of events national candidates are talking about crime and punishment on the campaign trail and its not the "tough-on-crime" rhetoric of past elections.  Starting with Barry Goldwater in 1964 right through President Obama in 2008, candidates for president wanted to "lock 'em up" and, that's right, throw away the key. But, not anymore.
This year, according to the Associated Press, for candidates from both parties the idea of locking up drug criminals for life is a lot less popular than it was a generation ago.
The 2016 presidential race has accelerated an evolution away from the traditional tough-on-crime candidate. A Republican Party that's long taken a law-and-order stance finds itself desperate to improve its standing among minority voters and Democratic candidates are also being drawn into national conversations on policing, drug crimes and prison costs.
With criminal justice issues intruding into election season, the "Just Say No" message of the Reagan administration and the "three strikes" sentencing law developed a decade later under President Bill Clinton have given way to concerns over bloated prison costs, the racial inequities of harsh drug punishments and how police interact with their communities.
But even among those in both parties who support changing the criminal justice system, there's no consensus on how to do it and candidates are scrambling to differentiate themselves on what law and order means.
"You don't have everyone saying they're tough on crime," said Inimai Chettiar of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, which advocates reducing prison populations. "Instead, you have people offering different policy solutions."
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