October 11, 2019
The FBI recently announced that violent crime fell 3.9% in 2018. The numbers are recorded by police departments across the country and compiled annually by the FBI. The violent crime rate in the United States has been cut nearly in half in the last 25 years.
In 2015 and 2016 there was an uptick in violence as recorded by the FBI. Some feared that the increase was a harbinger of more dangerous times. The latest data puts that fear to rest.
Ames Grawert, senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute at New York University’s School of Law, told The Marshall Project, “That’s a really good sign that the long term trend towards greater safety is not in fact reversed, and that we’re moving past whatever happened in 2015 and 2016.” She pointed out “that two years isn’t a trend, and two years doesn’t break a trend.”
The good news from the FBI has further bolstered reform-minded prosecutors like Larry Krasner in Philadelphia; reform governors like California’s Gavin Newsom; and just about every member of a crowded field of Democrats running for president.
The leading Democrats have all come out with a crime reform plan that, by all accounts, would have immediately delegitimized their candidacies just two presidential campaign cycles ago.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is advocating for the end of cash bail. She said, “We should allow people to return to their jobs and families while they wait for trial.” She takes issue with pre-trial civil forfeiture, “I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s policy expanding pre-trial civil forfeiture at the federal level, and restrict the use of civil forfeiture overall.”
Warren also seeks to cap fines and fees at a percentage of income for low-income individuals. She believes states should also eliminate the profit incentive that drives excessive fees and fines by capping the percentage of municipal revenues derived from the justice system, and diverting seized assets.
California Senator Kamala Harris supports ending mass incarceration, supports states legalizing marijuana and legalizing marijuana on the federal level, ending mandatory minimum sentencing on the federal level and incentivizing states to do the same. Invest money in states to shorten the length of probation and other forms of community supervision and end jail time for technical probation and parole violations
A consistent pattern of reform is beginning to emerge.
Congressman Bernie Sanders’ wish list for criminal justice reform is massive. According to his website, Bernie would abolish the death penalty; stop excessive sentencing with the goal of cutting the incarceration rate in half and end mandatory minimum sentencing. That sounds awfully familiar.
He would reinstate a federal parole system and end truth-in-sentencing. He would expand the use of sentencing alternatives - including community supervision and publicly funded halfway house - and revitalize the executive clemency process by creating an independent clemency board removed from the Department of Justice and placed in the White Hous
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s reform plan is equally ambitious. He pledges to decriminalize marijuana, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, end the death penalty, abolish private prisons, get rid of cash bail and discourage the incarceration of children. For the Democrat contenders it’s wash, rinse, repeat.
Biden would also create a new $20 billion grant program that encourages states to reduce incarceration and crime.
As for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, read any of the above plans ... abolish the death penalty, end cash bail, reduce prison population and eliminate private prisons.
“This is a conversation that is unrecognizable from 10 years ago - even five years ago - when these kinds of proposals wouldn’t have been floated in back rooms, let alone in public,” Adam Gelb, president of the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan research organization, told the New York Times.
President Donald Trump’s take on criminal justice reform, like Republican presidents before him, is confrontational. “They (Democrats) don’t mind crime,” he said recently at a rally in New Hampshire. “We do mind crime.”
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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