Prison Reform on Senate Agenda?

Good on Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.):

This spring, Webb (D-Va.) plans to introduce legislation on a long-standing passion of his: reforming the U.S. prison system. Jails teem with young black men who later struggle to rejoin society, he says. Drug addicts and the mentally ill take up cells that would be better used for violent criminals. And politicians have failed to address this costly problem for fear of being labeled "soft on crime."

It is a gamble for Webb, a fiery and cerebral Democrat from a staunchly law-and-order state. Virginia abolished parole in 1995, and it trails only Texas in the number of people it has executed. Moreover, as the country struggles with two wars overseas and an ailing economy, overflowing prisons are the last thing on many lawmakers' minds.

But Webb has never been one to rely on polls or political indicators to guide his way. He seems instead to charge ahead on projects that he has decided are worthy of his time, regardless of how they play -- or even whether they represent the priorities of the state he represents.

[...]

Webb aims much of his criticism at enforcement efforts that he says too often target low-level drug offenders and parole violators, rather than those who perpetrate violence, such as gang members. He also blames policies that strip felons of citizenship rights and can hinder their chances of finding a job after release. He says he believes society can be made safer while making the system more humane and cost-effective. 

I find Webb's economic populism wrongheaded and grating.  But there isn't a more authentic, no-bullshit member of Congress. Which is why it isn't terribly surprising to see him take on an issue like this, despite its political risks. The guy doesn't worship power, and doesn't seem to base his priorities on getting reelected. Here's hoping he fosters some genuine discussion on this issue, and perhaps creates room for more politicians to take a more skeptical look at the criminal justice system.

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  • Nigel Watt||

    It's tangentially related, but I just want to gloat that the Houston Chronicle published a letter of mine today:

    The only difference between a drive-by shooting and Israel and Hamas' intermittent needling of each other appears to be one of scale.

    NIGEL WATT, Houston

  • VM||

    and that the Israel and Hamas twaddlenockery is partially funded by the US taxpayer$.

    (congrats on being published!)

  • Nigel Watt||

    VM - Welfare.

  • ||

    The guy doesn't worship power,

    * Rolls eyes *

    He's a politician. He believes in forcing non-consenting adults to do stuff he wants, such as pay taxes for programs they oppose.

    Get a grip on reality here, Radley.

  • ||

    Let's see if he can make some headway. If he can, it will cause other politicians to think that this can be a winning strategy and adopt it.

  • ||

    It's going to be tough to make much real progress in this area without scaling back the Federal WOD in a significant way. And that will be trickier to support than the more palatable-sounding "criminal justice reform."

  • Abdul||

    I read the whole frigging article and it doesn't mention any specifics about Webb's proposed legislation, just about how brave Webb is for being pro-prison reform.

  • VM||

    touche, Nigel. Touche.

  • ||

    It's going to be tough to make much real progress in this area without scaling back the Federal WOD in a significant way.

    You just need to hope for change on the Federal level, dude.

  • ||

    You just need to hope for change on the Federal level, dude.

    Also, more regulations, right? On, like, greed and corruption and stuff. That's the ticket!

  • ||

    Don't forget the national service!

  • ||

    The fact that there are still things libertarians dislike in America a full 23 days before his inauguration definitively proves that Obama voters are stupid.

  • ||

    If he can, it will cause other politicians to think that this can be a winning strategy and adopt it.

    I know you're right, but wouldn't it be nice if other politicians saw the merits of the cause and decided to champion it as well, rather than only jumping on board if/when/and because it helps them stay in power?

    And wouldn't it be nice if I could get paid to play GTA IV?

  • VM||

    hay joe -

    I clearly gave the guy until Jan 2 to clean things up. that's fair.

    I totally expect "change" on Jan 2.

    *sits under table and waits*

  • ||

    And wouldn't it be nice if I could get paid to play GTA IV?

    What, your work computer isn't powerful enough to play it?

  • ||

    Alas, all installations are blocked and pesky eyeballs are always just over my shoulder.

    The best I can do is post on H&R and occasionally play some flash ping-pong.

  • creech||

    Joe is right: let's give Sen. Obama a free pass until he takes the oath of office. Once he promises to "protect and defend the U.S. Constitution" we'll have, I'm afraid, non-stop criticism of his Administration by libertarians. Please let it be respectful, insightful, and thought-provoking.

  • BDB||

    I'm willing to wait and see, too. He will have to be pretty awful to fuck it up worse than Bush.

  • VM||

    BDB - indeed. however, he seems to be against torture, which is a huge improvement.

    and it shows how fucking awful shrub was - that torture was a debate in the public. fuck. fuck fuck fuck.

  • ||

    Please let it be respectful, insightful, and thought-provoking.

    Good one. It will be childish, vitriolic, and unfair, even when it is birthed in truth, just as it has been for decades. And everyone will continue to cry "but they started it!" ad infinitum.

    Don't worry, though. Eventually the world will end. Happy New Year!

  • cunnivore||

    The fact that there are still things libertarians dislike in America a full 23 days before his inauguration definitively proves that Obama voters are stupid.

    Just out of curiosity, what did you think of Bush voters on Dec 30, 2000? I know tu quoque isn't a valid argument, but it's fun to pull out when you turn the smug up to 11.

  • ||

    Last time I checked, most prisoners in the U.S. were held in state prisons. Unless Webb is planning to meddle in the way states run their prison systems, he really needs to get 50 similar prison reform movements started on the state level.

  • ||

    Just out of curiosity, what did you think of Bush voters on Dec 30, 2000?

    That they would be shown to have been stupid in the future, by events taking place after Bush assumed office.* As opposed to pretending that their perception of how he would govern had already been disproven.


    *So, how'd I do?

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