The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Conservatives: Avoid the shiny apple of criminal justice reform

So-called “criminal justice reform” is the latest attempt by the political left to weaken our country’s legal and justice system.  It is also utterly destructive to the rule of law and public safety. What’s even more distressing is the fact that some conservatives have chosen to tag along with progressives to take a bite out of this shiny apple.

A bipartisan bill, originating from the Senate Judiciary Committee, is currently before Congress.  The bill would reduce some mandatory minimum sentences and lead to the emancipation of violent felons across the country. The bill also addresses prison reforms and “mens rea” reform, or working criminal “intent” into the sentencing process.

{mosads}“How appealing,” some of these Republicans are thinking, “to demonstrate to the mainstream media and the progressive left, that we truly care about the human side of the scourge of crime across our nation.”

 “Let’s humanize the statistics.”

“Prison costs are far too high, reform can reap savings.”

“Let criminals give back to the community instead of serving time,” they say of the “restorative justice” angle.

“Give non-violent offenders a chance by keeping them out of prison or reducing their sentences,” advocates of sentencing reform lecture us in the police force.

“We can no longer ignore the cost of our prison population. We must not turn our backs on the families that are being torn apart by needlessly harsh prison sentences that do not make us safer,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said at a hearing on the issue.  Not once did concern for the victims of crime cross Leahy’s lips or the victims families torn apart by crime.

“Now Democrats will give us credit for having a heart,” these conservatives secretly hope.

One of the authors of this criminal justice legislation, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), summed up this liberal attitude perfectly when he said of the bill, “It doesn’t hurt to show that you actually care. This is a statement that is not just symbolic, but actually shows that you care about people. It doesn’t hurt to show some empathy.”

Why would the GOP commit its seemingly never-ending attempt at political suicide and hand over one of its only remaining trademarks as the party of law and order?

And yet moderates, conservatives, and libertarians, from Newt Gingrich to prominent donors and even the Christian Action Institute, are wading, haplessly, into a trap set for them by the left.

I’m open to smart measures, especially at the state level, to increase efficiency, but most of these proposed initiatives are pure social-engineering experimentation. The federal prison population is only 12 percent of the total prison population.  The other 88 percent are held in state facilities.

No one has made the case that we need to do anything federally, especially wholesale. This will shift costs to the states down the road.

Let’s not take the cheese here. Force criminal advocates to make their case beyond the talking points and false narrative. Lower cost, improving public safety, blah, blah, blah.

I will support concepts of sentencing reform going forward. I recoil over the idea of retroactively applying that to dangerous criminals who have already had their due process.

Just this past week, Newt Gingrich tweeted out, “@JerryBrownGov‘s juvenile justice initiative would mean fairer justice at less cost w/ better public safety. Deserves Californians’ support.”

How embarrassing. Gingrich is just parroting the talking points of the soft-on-crime criminal advocates.

Not only are these dangerous plans to embark upon, they have no effect on crime or in the lives of “sympathetic” criminal characters.

Just look at California: the Los Angeles Times has reported that despite the state reducing its prison population by 30,000 inmates, it was spending $2 billion more on prison costs per year. Not only that, violent crime increased by 12.9 percent and property crime increased by 9.2 percent in California’s largest cities.

Criminal-justice reform also removes from the equation those most affected: the victims of crime—past, present, and future. For the most part, those who will suffer are black, low-income citizens who must bear the brunt of the fallout from well-meaning but idiotic criminal-justice reform advocates.

This bipartisan get out-of-jail-free legislation won’t lessen costs whatsoever; instead, it will shift the cost back to the states when these criminals re-offend, which they will.  Compared to the true cost of crime in America — psychological and physical injury, insurance costs, funeral costs, medical costs, property-replacement cost, lost time from work and earning potential, cost for more police, and proceedings, just to name a few – incarceration costs to reduce crime are a bargain.

Anyone who says that incarceration has no effect on public safety should then explain the record crime declines of the 90’s and early 2000s when we started to lock away dangerous career criminals for longer periods of time.  Think of the people who are alive today because we got smart on crime by getting tougher.

Republicans need to think twice about locking arms with the left in this social-engineering experiment – they know what they’re up to and they’re looking for uninformed do-gooders to help them out. What these movements do is go out and find some unlikely supporter and push him/her out front to give the Trojan Horse credibility and believability.  Don’t be one. 

Clarke is the 64th sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

Tags John Cornyn Patrick Leahy

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Regular the hill posts

See all Hill.TV See all Video

main area bottom custom html

MAIN Area bottom

Main area bottom

Top Stories

See All

Most Popular

Load more