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June 5th, 2015 10:58 am
Additional Thoughts on Criminal Justice Reform
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A couple of additional points on the need to tread carefully on criminal justice reform, the topic of my commentary this week.

First, Michael Barone, the dean of American politics, emphasizes that same theme in his column today:

Are we seeing a reversal of the 20-year decline in violent crime in America?  A new nationwide crime wave?  Heather MacDonald fears we are, and as a premier advocate and analyst of the policing strategy pioneered by Rudy Giuliani in New York City and copied and adapted throughout the country, she is to be taken seriously.  And the statistics she presented in an article in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal are truly alarming.

Gun violence is up 60 percent in Baltimore so far this year compared to 2014.  Homicides are up 180 percent in Milwaukee, 25 percent in St. Louis, 32 percent in Atlanta and 13 percent in New York in the same period.

Why is this happening?  MacDonald writes, ‘The most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months.'”

Barone concludes:

We must hope that the fire does not spread and dies down.  Perhaps it will if police resume the tactics that have proven so successful.  The alternative, for those of us who have witnessed the last half-century, is terrifying.”

Second, Rick Perry’s entry into the 2016 presidential race highlights another example of the danger of overzealous prosecution and overcriminalization.  Recall that Perry was preposterously charged with felonies for simply exercising his powers as governor.  Specifically, he merely threatened to veto funding for a state district attorney’s office unless one of its prosecutors who had been arrested for driving while intoxicated and behaving abusively toward officers – all captured on profane video – resigned or was fired.  As today’s Wall Street Journal notes, “Unlike many of President Obama’s actions, this was a constitutional exercise of executive power.”  The awful tale of the late Senator Ted Stevens (R – Alaska) is yet another example.  Stevens was convicted on the basis of prosecutorial corruption, he subsequently lost his reelection bid by an extremely narrow margin (which proved the decisive vote in passing ObamaCare), but then was cleared after his death and his prosecutors were themselves disciplined.

Barone’s piece and those two additional examples help confirm that we need criminal justice reform, but that we must do so carefully.

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