Election 2016

36 Questions on the Criminal Justice System for 2016's Presidential Hopefuls

Radley Balko wonders how important criminal justice reform and civil liberties will be in this election cycle.


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Over at The Washington Post, Radley Balko (formerly of Reason) has a questionnaire for potential presidential candidates examining their stance on various criminal justice and civil liberties issues. As Balko notes, the entry of candidates like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and maybe former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), means criminal justice reform could be a bigger issue in this election than it has been historically, at the very least for the duration of the primaries.

Balko's very first question would probably disqualify a lot of candidates from consideration by voters who take the issues of criminal justice reform and civil liberties seriously. Via The Post:

— The Obama administration has made heavy use of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to investigate patterns of abuse and civil rights violations by local police departments. Would you continue this policy in your administration? To what extent is the federal government obligated to step in when local police and prosecutors are either habitually violating or failing to protect the constitutional rights of citizens in their jurisdiction?

From Albuquerque to Seattle to  Ferguson, Mo., to Cleveland to Newark, NJ the Department of Justice has been relatively prolific in investigating local police departments for systemic civil liberties abuses. Often the DOJ has been too deferential to local PDs and governments in crafting solutions, preferring negotiated settlements to court actions. But it's work that the right presidential candidate could have a plan to build on.

Balko's questions range from civil forfeiture to the kinds of laws potential candidates might consider unconstitutional to their stance on the death penalty. Here's one more on police:

— Last December, Ed Krayewski at Reason magazine proposed creating a "police offenders registry." This would be a master list of police officers who have been caught lying in police reports or on the witness stand, using excessive force, or abusing or intimidating citizens. The idea here is to prevent corrupt and abusive cops from simply picking up and moving to another police department. There of course would be some details to work out about what would qualify an officer for listing on the registry, but generally speaking, do you support this idea? Is it something you would consider asking your Justice Department to create and oversee?

Read the rest here.