When Sen. Barack Obama expressed concern early in the primary season that there are more young black men in prison than in college, he raised hope that he might be the first major-party candidate in a generation to adopt a more nuanced criminal policy than the typical "longer sentences, more prisons, more cops." As it turns out, Obama was wrong on the numbers. But the sentiment was right—one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is currently behind bars.
Obama has also heartened advocates for criminal justice reform by expressing reservations about mandatory minimum sentences, at least for nonviolent offenders. He said he would end federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they're legal. And he has expressed some welcome dismay about America's incarceration rate, which is the highest in the world.
But in the last month, Obama's line on criminal justice has been a lot less encouraging.