Criminal Justice

Clinton and Sanders Pay Lip Service to Criminal Justice Reform, but Offer No Concrete Solutions

Clinton and Sanders had opportunities to offer concrete solutions to criminal justice issues during last night's Democratic debate, but failed to deliver.

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Source: NY Daily News

Despite having the opportunity to clarify their stances on criminal justice issues, Democratic presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders failed to offer any real solutions to the problems at large during last night's Democratic debate.

Two questions were posed for the candidates on criminal justice issues. First, a Facebook question asking, "Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?" Second, a question on marijuana legalization.

Sanders offered a bold response to the black lives matter question, insofar as he said, "black lives do matter," and brought up the case of Sandra Bland, a woman who was pulled over for changing lanes without signaling and was found dead in a jail cell three days later. He noted high incarceration rates, but when it came to offering real solutions in dealing with the problems of our broken criminal justice system, Sanders disappointingly he intended to "make sure that our people have education and jobs rather than jail cells."

This response seems to be in line with what he's done throughout his career, which is to side-step the issue of criminal justice reform and instead just talk about education and jobs, as noted earlier this week at the Marshall Project.

Hillary took a more moderate approach to the "black lives matter" question, instead choosing to praise President Obama for being a "great moral leader on these issues," and further stating "What we need to be doing is not only reforming criminal justice…we need to tackle mass incarceration." Seemed like a good start.

But, like Sanders, Hillary followed with a statement that offered no concrete solutions, and in fact had little to do with criminal justice reform at all. She said, "We've got to do more about the lives of these children, that's why I started off by saying we need to be committed to making it possible for every child to live up to his or her God given potential. That is really hard to do is you don't have early childhood education, if you don't have schools that are able to meet the needs of good people or good housing—there's a long list. We need a new New Deal for communities of color and the poor." Back to her old, familiar talking points it is, then!

When both candidates were asked if they would vote in favor of the marijuana legalization ballot initiative in Nevada if they could, Sanders outright said that he would, which is the first time he's publicly supported marijuana legalization.

When Hillary was asked the same question, she responded that she was not ready to take a position on legalized marijuana, a response she's stuck with for a while now. She then went on to say the following: "We've got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana, need more states, cities, and the federal government to begin to address this so that we don't have this terrible result that Sen. Sanders was talking about, where we have a huge population in our prisons for nonviolent, low-level offenses that are primarily due to marijuana."

But, as Jacob Sullum noted earlier today, a very small minority of prison sentences for drug offenses are for marijuana. Many more who are incarcerated for "low-level" drug offenses are there for possessing, manufacturing, or selling drugs like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. Indeed, Sullum notes, "even releasing all drug offenders, who represent about one-fifth of the [total] prison population, would still leave a lot to do."

Besides some factual inaccuracies about who exactly is in prison for nonviolent offenses, what makes these candidates' responses to particularly disappointing is that there are so. many. possible reforms they could have offered. And yet Hillary and Bernie chose to stick to talking points that are both stale and unappealing, particularly to those who care about reforming our broken criminal justice system.

Of course, it's important to remember that Hillary has had a pretty abysmal record when it comes to criminal justice issues, publicly supporting Bill Clinton's 1994 Crime Bill, advocating draconian Three Strikes laws, and criticizing then-presidential candidate Barack Obama for being "too soft on crime" during the 2008 election campaign. While she's started to retreat from those positions, it's hard to know if she's doing so only because being against reform will make it harder for her to be elected. As highlighted earlier, Sanders has never really been a champion of criminal justice reform throughout his career (and it should be noted that he indeed voted for the final version of the 1994 Crime Bill).

But criminal justice reform is popular with the public these days. Search on any given day and you'll find at least one article touting the bipartisanship of the issue. Indeed, black lives matter activists have also taken to interrupting Bernie Sanders during a campaign speech, and have publicly met with both him and Clinton in recent weeks. Earlier this year, Clinton gave a speech on the merits of reform, though once again offered limited concrete solutions.

I don't mean to downplay the significance of having such a topic discussed during the first Democratic debate. I do, however, think it's unfair for Democrats or criminal justice reform supporters to throw all of their hopes and dreams behind two candidates who have either done basically nothing on the issue or have supported the very same "tough-on-crime" policies that were a major driver to the incarceration problems we're facing today, despite some evidence that they're beginning to head in the other direction. Given that there were more substantive responses on the issue given at the Republican debate, and that Bernie and Hillary failed to deliver any real concrete policy solutions despite the softball questions thrown their way, I'm afraid many who favor a more just criminal justice system will end up disappointed if one of these candidates is elected in 2016.

NEXT: Sorry, Bernie Sanders. Raising the Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour Wouldn't Create Millions of Jobs. But It Might Destroy Them.

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  1. I want criminal justice reform that prosecutes and imprisons the most violent criminals in American society.

    By far the most significant comment of the night came from Hillary. Regarding the Libyan intervention: “Our response, which was smart power at its best.”

    Here we see what the ruling elite consider success: a pile of dead and decaying bodies, a sodomized despot, and years of chaos that spread to Mali and elsewhere in Africa, and which will likely end with a medieval Islamist regime. The Libyan intervention was so successful, that the State Department attempted to replicate “smart power at its best” in Syria until Putin shamed Kerry into considering a less murderous policy. “Smart power at its best” is currently working its wonders in Yemen.

    It’s time to quit thinking that American ruling elites define success in the same way that ordinary, non-evil people define it. Their idea of “American values” is not the same as the values held by ordinary Americans.

    1. Well, the despot thing isn’t that bad, really. Unless he enjoyed that, of course.

      1. The basic tenets of justice demand a fair trial and a first-class hanging, or equivalent, for a criminal like Gaddafi, but without resort to torture or cruel and unusual punishment.

        Instead, Hillary cackled as she related her glee: “We came. We saw. He died.” [after being tortured and sodomized]

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgcd1ghag5Y

        This grotesque woman aspires to become president.

        1. The US secretary of state shouldn’t be gleeful about it. But I think I am OK with how Mussolini and the Ceaucescus went out, for example.

          1. I’m not OK with it. I prefer the way Iraq conducted the Saddam Hussein trial.

            First, tyrants have the same right as anybody else to a fair hearing regarding their crimes and a just punishment without resort to torture or cruel and unusual punishment. Arguably, the Ceaucescus got a trial, though is was perfunctory. Mussolini was summarily shot. Of course, assassination of a tyrant (like the attempts on Hitler) is justified if apprehension is not feasible. However, both Ceaucescus and Mussolini were out of power and in custody when they were executed. In any case, the medieval way Mussolini’s corpse was defiled and put on public display did not serve the interests of justice.

            Second, and probably more important to the interests of justice, these guys know who the other guilty parties really are. By killing them in haste, many equally guilty parties go free. That’s why deposed tyrants are typically killed in haste or allowed silent exile abroad.

        2. Oh, absolutely. But if others do that to a dictator I’m willing to look the other way. No gloating, just a sense of relief.

          1. Instead of sodomizing dictators, the new government should Saddamize them – give them a judicial trial. Worked with Saddam.

        3. Instead, Hillary cackled as she related her glee: “We came. We saw. He died.” [after being tortured and sodomized]

          After this, she still probably can’t figure out why every other tinhorn dictator, that the US might have their sights on, is scrambling to get nukes.

          Didn’t Khadafy’s son try to broker a safe passage deal that she turned down?

          1. “Didn’t Khadafy’s son try to broker a safe passage deal that she turned down?”

            Hillary’s behavior was much, much worse than that. Gaddafi had already outlined a deal with General Ham. General Ham did not want to go to war kinetic military operations in Libya. There is a recording of Gaddafi’s son begging Dennis Kuscinich, expressing a naive and vain hope that the US actually wanted a peaceful resolution.

            The atrocious warmonger Hillary refused to accept peace, preferring chaos, death, and destruction for the future of Libya.

        4. Instead, Hillary cackled as she related her glee: “We came. We saw. He died.” [after being tortured and sodomized]

          After this, she still probably can’t figure out why every other tinhorn dictator, that the US might have their sights on, is scrambling to get nukes.

          Didn’t Khadafy’s son try to broker a safe passage deal that she turned down?

          1. Fuck the squirrels have it in for me.

      2. Some people are into knife and breath play.

      3. Sadly Tonio, Gaddafi, Hussein, Mubarek, Pahlavi, etc etc are the best those places had to offer. Since their ouster things have gotten exponentially worse.

  2. She then went on to say the following: “We’ve got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana, need more states cities and the federal government to begin to address this so that we don’t have this terrible result that Senator Sanders was talking about, where we have a huge population in our prisons for nonviolent, low-level offenses that are primarily due to marijuana.”

    But, as Jacob Sullum noted earlier today, a very small minority of prison sentences for drug offenses are for marijuana.

    There’s also the tiny issue that since Hillary doesn’t want to legalize recreational pot, she’s 100% full of shit when she says she wants to stop imprisoning people for using it.

    1. There’s also the tiny issue that, since Hillary doesn’t want to legalize recreational pharmaceuticals in general, she’s perfectly okay with using the power of the State to destroy people’s lives with a criminal record even if they get probation or mandatory drug abuse treatment instead of prison.

      “I can barely tolerate reading most “dissenting” writers at times like this. The Pigfuckers launch their newest assault on decency and humanity, on the sacred value of a single human life, and on civilization itself, and the protesters are all so goddamned, fucking polite. The United States government is led by blood-guzzling, flesh-eating pigfuckers. Fuck polite.” — Arthur Silber

    2. She could reclassify MJ on day one and have a huge impact. Also, pardons.

      Unless a candidate mentions positive steps likes these, that candidate is not to be taken seriously about wanting to ratchet down the WoD.

      1. ^^ THIS. SQUARED.

    3. Maybe she doesn’t want to imprison pot smokers, nicole. Maybe she wants to send those poor addicts who are in thrall to the devil’s weed to treatment facilities with bars on the windows and doors that lock from the outside so they an get the help they desperately need.

      1. I thought thats what she had in mind as the first treatment course for anyone that didn’t worship at the altar of her SJW empire?

    4. +1 “…there is too much money in it”

  3. While she’s started to retreat from those positions, it’s hard to know if she’s doing so only because being against reform will make it harder for her to be elected.

    Uh…what do *you* think? I mean…come on. Look at her track record and the answer is clear as day.

    I’m afraid many who favor a more just criminal justice system will end up disappointed if one of these candidates is elected in 2016

    Sadly, you’re going to be disappointed if any of the candidates, BLUE or RED, is elected in 2016. And since one of them will…

    No single politician can reform such a profoundly broken system that is absolutely loaded with perverse incentives at every level. To be honest, I don’t know what could short of burning the whole thing to the ground. It has become absolutely infested with rent seekers, power mongers, sadists, abusers, and parasites. And they will fight tooth and nail to keep it.

    1. #BTFSTTG

      1. I only speak English, Nicole. I don’t speak imbecile acronym.

          1. You’ve changed, Nicole. You used to be far too anal and too much of a pedant to use acronyms so willy-nilly. What happened to you?!?

            1. I dunno, but I am pretty hopped up on Theraflu atm.

              1. Ah, Robotripping. That could explain it. And of course another acronym.

                You took the nighttime Theraflu, not the daytime, didn’t you. Admit it!

              2. I didn’t know Theraflu even made an ass-to-mouth product. That doesn’t seem like the most sanitary way to treat a cold, but what do I know?

                1. Uh, Hugh, it’s called Theraflu A2M and you have to ask the pharmacist for it since it’s behind the counter.

                2. It’s fine if you bleach first.

                  1. Eeeeewwwww!

            2. Not enough anal?

          2. You could’ve linked to that from the beginning. It’s like you’re trying to be the worst.

            (and that is very, very good, though I’m disappointed Clark was ever so naive)

          3. Wow, that Popehat guy should be called Little Miss Sunshine.

        1. She’s really into the transgender remake of Back to the Future, Epi.

          1. Martina McFly?

      2. I only speak English, Nicole. I don’t speak imbecile acronym.

  4. Police and Prison Guards have two of the most powerful unions in the country. Ain’t no Democrat going to stop putting non-violent drug users in prison.

    1. But surely they will need all that space for political prisoners…

      1. They will need even more space for the climate change deniers.

        1. That is one of the major classes of political prisoners for whom they’ll need space.

          1. I was thinking more from an organized crime POV rather than political.

      2. No, that’s the second prong in their plan. The extra political prisons will be job creating public works projects.

  5. Clinton and Sanders Pay Lip Service to Criminal Justice Reform, but Offer No Concrete Solutions

    And what issue would want to be between the lips of those two, anyway? If I were an issue, I would shoot myself to avoid that hell.

    1. And what issue would want to be between the lips of those two, anyway?

      Please consult SugarFree’s corpus of work for possible answers.

  6. Why would politicians give a shit about criminal justice reform? It’s not like felons can vote.

    1. The party that could gain a bunch of voters by restoring ex-felons’ voting rights?

      1. You mean ex-felons will be contractually obligated to vote for the party that pushed through the bill that restored their right to vote?

        1. That’s why libertarians will never win anything. They actually care about criminal justice reform because it’s the right thing to do, not because there’s a financial gain at the end of it.

          1. Or political gain.

            But, yes, deincarcerating them would be a financial gain for libertarians in terms of lowering government spending. Everyone, really, although many non-libertarians don’t recognize it as such.

            1. Or political gain.

              Same thing. Hillary didn’t become a multi-millionaire because she cured a disease or invented the longer lasting lightbulb.

              But, yes, deincarcerating them would be a financial gain for libertarians in terms of lowering government spending. Everyone, really, although many non-libertarians don’t recognize it as such.

              Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It would divert government spending into something hopefully less awful.

  7. These candidates don’t have the advantage of being outsiders. It’s one thing for Carson or Trump or Fiorina to say “I will propose legislation that….” It is quite another for insiders like Sanders and Clinton to act like they’ve had no opportunities in their long political careers to introduce legislation that says precisely what they now fault the Clinton/Bush/Obama administrations for not having done. Just once, I’d like a journalist to ask Bernie or Hilly what
    bills they proposed in 2006-2007 that would have avoided the great recession.

  8. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.buzznews99.com

  9. I believe that in the modern political context, refusing to give a concrete plan is more presidential.

  10. Try reading this without shedding a tear. I bet Bernie & Hilldog could.

    1. I’ve been trying to find a job, but at 64 years old, no one wants to hire me. At some places, what I was accused of makes people not want to hire me.

      Huh, he was exonerated, no? Does he have to still report that he spent time in prison for this crime he didn’t commit? That’s fucked up beyond words.

      1. It is tough because someone see your application, they will ask what have you been doing for the last 34 years.

        1. If it were me, I’d use the British idiom: I was spending time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

          1. Depends on who that someone is, Geo. Many of us here couldn’t care less about that sort of history (nonviolent, victimless crimes).

            1. Agree, Tonio. If he told me the story, I would be more inclined to hire and train him.

      2. I wondered that too. Technically, he was convicted, so…. maybe? I’m going to ask my sister in corporate HR this one later.

        1. I would boycott any company who refused to hire pardoned, nonviolent drug war victims.

          1. So you boycott the federal government? I’m down with that.

    2. “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

      The incarcerated man is included in the collective “we”. He chose to be incarcerated by this great project we call “government” according to that retarded way of thinking about the state.

  11. Huh, power hungry assholes who don’t give a shit about regular people don’t care about sentencing reform.

    Who’d a thunk it?

  12. Sanders may talk a good game about abolishing the NDA or criminal justice reform, but if elected, once he got into office, I have no reason to think he will pursue any real civil liberties reform. He will likely use all of his chips in his first 100 days to pursue his economic agenda, ie, free medical care for all or free university for all.

    When Reason makes the “Liberarian Case for Bernie Sanders,” I want to hear why they think he will actually make good on his promises regarding civil liberties, and not go full out on his economic agenda. Remember, Candidate Obama didn’t like the Patriot Act or Illegal Wiretapping.

    1. Yep. The don’t like things until they discover they can use them against their political opponents.

  13. These are the same two that want to change washington yet they have been at the top of the washington machine for decades….uh huh.

    Color me skeptical.

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