Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Promises to Reduce Prison Population, Misses the Simple Solution of Not Messing With People

Acknowledging the role of the democratic will of the people and democratically-enacted laws in problems with policing would require taking responsibility.

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PBS

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) promised at tonight's debate that by the end of his first term he would reduce the U.S. prison population so it was no longer the largest in the world. The promise came during an extended "discussion" of criminal justice reform that was long on identify the problems in the criminal justice system but short on either identifying the causes of the problems or the solutions.

"Today a male African-American baby born today stands a one-in-four chance of ending up in jail. That is beyond unspeakable," Sanders said—there was a lot of talk about race at the top of this, the last debate before the South Carolina primary. "So what we have to do is the radical reform of a broken criminal justice system."

But Sanders didn't really offer any "radical reforms." He said over-policing in African-American neighborhoods had to end and that there was too much racial disparities in traffic stops, drug arrests, and sentencing. He said the U.S. needed "fundamental police reform" but didn't identify what it was. Sanders has previously pointed to police departments as an example of "socialist institutions." When he ran for mayor of Burlington in 1981, Sanders was supported by the city's police union. He voted for the Clinton 1994 crime bill.

While "radical reforms" are all well and good, they're not necessary to alleviate some of the worst problems in the criminal justice system. Rolling back the laws that create all the opportunities for police to harass otherwise peaceable residents, especially those from marginalized communities, would go a long way in reducing the harm caused by the criminal justice system. Brian Doherty has explored this in detail, explaining how petty law enforcement traps the poor in a vicious cycle of escalating fines, warrants, and jail time.

When a series of incidents of police violence in New York City—including the death of Eric Garner, who was accused by cops of selling loose untaxed cigarettes—received media attention in the summer of 2014, Mayor Bill De Blasio (D), hailed as a progressive hero after his election, refused to even consider scaling back the kind of petty laws that lead to violent police interactions. Instead, he stood by as the police commissioner explained that submitting to police and complying with their orders by correcting your behavior for them was what "democracy" was all about.  Last year, when police in New York stopped making "unnecessary arrests" and unnecessary traffic stops (like the ones Sanders complained about being racially disparate), de-escalating petty law enforcement in all communities, The New York Times argued such a withdrawal in minority communities constituted a civil rights violation.

The left has consistently avoided taking its share of responsibility for the endemic problem of police violence. Laws about drugs, guns, and other essentially non-violent behavior are pushed by nanny statists. Bernie Sanders may be wrong that police departments are socialist institutions, but they are democratic institutions. While racism is a problem, among police and everywhere else, police act to impose democratically-enacted laws on people.

Force is necessary whenever someone who believes they are free refuses to comply with a law that doesn't involve actual crime prevention. Reducing police violence will require reducing the opportunities for police to interact with peaceful residents. That, in turn, will require acknowledging that the laws we wish to impose on society involve violence when they're imposed on the individual level, something Bernie Sanders, for all his rhetoric, continues to miss.

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  1. Anybody want to ask Bernie about how police unions contribute to this problem? I’m sure he’ll be happy to discuss that.

    1. Somehow unions didn’t make PBS’s “top concerns” mini-lists during the debate. You know, the ones that were topped by “racial issues” for every single demographic.

      1. i am sick to death of racial issues. just fed up.

          1. “Black Man Penis Myth Food For Thought”

            *click*

          2. I’ll agree with the “issues” assessment of Sarah’s letter-writer.

  2. The police are a socialist institution. Government has a monopoly on the police, so it’s one clear area where the government owns the means of production.

    There should be a teachable moment in that.

    1. Heh, you say teachable moment, current college students hear microagressions.

  3. Every time I see Bernie Sanders I can’t help thinking “Old man yells at cloud…”

  4. Reducing police government violence will require reducing the opportunities for police government to interact with peaceful residents.

    You see the problem for Bernie? No matter how many problems government has made horribly, expensively worse, Bernie has this child-like* faith that it can take on lots more problems and not make them horribly, expensively worse.

    *Specifically, a child who’s been dropped repeatedly on its head.

    1. in many people’s minds, government is dysfunctional, but that’s only because people with opposing points of view are allowed to participate in the process.

      it’s like religion. the good stuff is god, the bad stuff is all you.

      1. I love the last line. I hereby steal it. You may continue using it however on sufferance.

  5. “Rolling back the laws that create all the opportunities for police to harass otherwise peaceable residents, especially those from marginalized communities, would go a long way in reducing the harm caused by the criminal justice system….”

    “Force is necessary whenever someone who believes they are free refuses to comply with a law that doesn’t involve actual crime prevention. Reducing police violence will require reducing the opportunities for police to interact with peaceful residents. That, in turn, will require acknowledging that the laws we wish to impose on society involve violence when they’re imposed on the individual level…”

    I think this was nicely done, Ed.

    There is a phrase/quote which I cannot now find which (if I recall) surmises that a law designed to protect individuals which is instead used to harm individuals it is destructive of its original intent/purpose, and therefore is no longer a just law.

    If anyone can find the actual quote for me and its associated context I will appreciate it.

    1. Lex iniusta non est lex?

      Taking a stab at it, bugger if I’ve got any idea otherwise.

    2. “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” TJ

      1. Or perhaps closer, “”If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law” Thoreau

        1. Thanks to you both.

          It’s one of those statements that impressed me a great deal and “spoke volumes” despite its brevity, yet I cannot now recall who said/wrote it, nor indeed much of the actual quote to find it with a web search. I regret not remembering enough of it to find it (or give you decent material to find it) and at this point the most memorable paraphrase I can offer is “destructive of its original intent/purpose”, which I regret isn’t much.

          Thanks again. If I find it I’ll post it here or in another comments section at Reason (even if its off topic).

  6. “Bernie Sanders may be wrong that police departments are socialist institutions, but they are democratic institutions. ”

    Sorry, but it is a violent coercive monopoly that is shielded by “qualified immunity” and gets it’s revenue not by voluntary means, but by extortion, and threats or acts of violence for those that might not wish to fund an institution that just killed their family member or dog.

    Sounds preety socialist to me.

    1. It’s both actually. One of the hurdles we have to overcome is the fact that lots of the oppressive policing is demanded by the voters.

  7. OK, but did he point out that his opponent should be one to *increase* the prison population?

  8. So is no one going to point out that Bernie Sanders has no ability to lower the number of people in US prisons since the overwhelming majority of people in the US are in state prisons and not federal prisons and are therefore jailed under laws the feds have no control over?

    1. ^^ And this is why it’s moronic that people care so much about the federal elections when discussing this issue, since the primary way to lessen ridiculous prison sentences is by getting people elected at the state and local level. The only thing you could do federally to deal with the problem is end the War on Drugs, which no one is actually going to do since even Bernie isn’t saying we should decriminalize meth.

      Plus, since so few people vote in state/local elections, if people organized they would be more likely to actually impact the law and lower the prison population.

    2. Oh, there you go pointing out how it’s all pointless masturbation and taking the fun out of it.

      Can’t we just enjoy the signaling?

    3. Well except they could sue, like they’re doing in Ferguson. That said, I’m not entirely sure a “racist” justice system is the problem.

      1. You can’t sue ever jurisdiction in the United States.

        1. It’s as practical as spending $1.2 trillion on single payor health care. So why not throw it out there?

    4. A federal law deferring to the states on marijuana prohibition would make a big difference, and we’re going to need a President to sign that bill.

      Deferring to the states on marijuana is a step in the direction of doing the same thing with other drugs, too.

      The War on Drugs Industrial Complex wasn’t built in a day, and it’ll take more than a day to tear it down. It’ll also take someone in the White House who’s willing to sign on the dotted line. Can’t get anything done in this country without a President that’s willing to sign off on it.

      1. Ken Shultz|2.12.16 @ 12:09AM|#
        “A federal law deferring to the states on marijuana prohibition would make a big difference, and we’re going to need a President to sign that bill.”

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure Obo could have freed a lot of kids in for a joint or a rock.

        1. He’d schedule tobacco to be like heroin if he thought he could get away with it.

  9. “Bernie Sanders may be wrong that police departments are socialist institutions, but they are democratic institutions. “

    I think if you’d said the police are [Democratic] institutions it would have been even more on target. The lack of police accountability in places like Chicago and Baltimore is directly attributable to (capital “D”) Democratic machines that run those cities. We cannot really address the problem of the police being unaccountable without addressing the problem of police unions and the role they play in getting everyone elected from the city councils and mayors that approve protective contracts to the district attorneys that would prosecute the police. How can we expect to hold the police accountable when everyone who’s responsible for holding them accountable is beholden to the police unions?

  10. And why would we expect the police to want to see things like marijuana legalized or gun control relaxed? That’s their bread and butter. That’s how the police put their kids through college. They fund their retirements through marijuana prohibition and gun control. That’s how they justify their very salaries. The police unions will never give that stuff up without a fight.

    Until we see police unions protesting even harder than the public employee unions went after Scott Walker in Wisconsin, we’ll know that the real cause of the problem isn’t even being addressed. The solution to racist police is accountability, and accountability won’t come until the police unions have been addressed.

    If President Sanders wouldn’t be willing to take on the public employee unions, then he’d be part of the problem.

    1. “If President Sanders wouldn’t be willing to take on the public employee unions, then he’d be part of the problem.”

      Moonbeam, who signed the Dill Act in the ’70s, now claims to be concerned about the $400Bn un-funded CA retirement liability. And, no, he makes no mention of that act, just the increased taxes *we* must face to fund his vote-buying schemes.

      1. I was reading earlier today about Berkeley’s and UCLA’s funding problems. Moonbeam’s trying to stay true to the mission of the system–making top notch education available to middle and low income Californians.

        Meanwhile, those two schools keep admitting more and more foreign students (mostly from Asia) to make up for budget shortfalls. The reason for taxpayer support for the UC system wasn’t supposed to be so that middle class and poor Californians are taxed to provide wealthy foreign kids with a relatively inexpensive education.

        Within a few years, almost a third of the students at those two schools may be foreigners. They pay out of state tuition, but it’s still far cheaper than Stanford or USC, which are directly comparable.

        1. “Moonbeam’s trying to stay true to the mission of the system–making top notch education available to middle and low income Californians.”

          Yeah, and as with free shit anywhere and always, there isn’t enough to go around.
          Cal does have decent profs and it still has the rep that means ‘you got a job’, so it is a valuable brand. And, natch, a gov’t has no idea how to deal with that.
          In order to maintain those levels, Cal *must* collect enough in tuition to pay the salaries, hence, the free shit to middle and low income residents went overboard.
          Moonbeam was hoping Napolitano would buy him cred and some slack, but his PR move hasn’t done shit.

          1. I think Berkeley and UCLA and UCSD are the best bargain around–especially Cal.

            Tuition at Stanford is $45,000 a year. That’s presumably where Cal would be without the state behind it.

            In state tuition at Cal is $13,000 a year.

            It’s about that at UCLA, too. Tuition at USC is $50,000 a year.

            The other thing that’s stupid about the UC system is that they already have a whole cal state system, as well.

            23 colleges in the CSU system, but that’s not enough–we need the UC system, too?

  11. Didn’t watch the debate.

    Bernie messed with a whole lot of people when he voted for the 1994 Crime Bill. I guess he thought there weren’t enough Black men in prison.

    1. According to Wiki, in 1994, black people made up about one-third of one percent of Vermont’s population.

      St. Bernie doesn’t give a shit about black people.

      Next time you’re listening to some progressive from Vermont tell us all how tolerant we should be, remember that their experience with minorities mostly consists of what they’ve seen on television.

      1. 1/3 of 1% Black population? Vermont is a regular sundown town

        I just looked up my county, 55% black, 5% Asian 33% white, 10% Hispanic of any race, .4% Native American, 4.5% other races. I celebrate voluntary diversity. My English ancestry puts me at 5.9%, yet I don’t feel oppressed by it.

    2. Sanders should invite all the BLM people to move to Vermont a la the Free State Project.

      Just bring black people to tolerant Vermont by the thousands. Let them show us all how tolerance should be done.

  12. Ken Shultz|2.12.16 @ 12:16AM|#
    “According to Wiki, in 1994, black people made up about one-third of one percent of Vermont’s population.”

    And they’re counting the ‘stable-hand’ cast iron statues marking the edges of the driveways.

    1. They like Bob Marley, though. They know that.

      And Richie Havens.

      1. So long as they keep their distance!

  13. The drug war reduces access to drugs which reduces addiction which will actually *reduce* crime in the long run. We should not make the short-sighted decision to decriminalize pot or other drugs.

    According to NIDA:

    “Criminal acts fueled by drug use are not uncommon…. Since there is no way to know who will become addicted, do you really want to take the chance?”

    http://teens.drugabuse.gov/blo…..v-show-100

    1. Uh, care to calibrate my sarc meter?

      1. Sure. Nora Volkow is the Director of NIDA and great-granddaughter of Lev David Bronstein aka Leon Trotsky.

        1. So stupidity is genetic?

    2. Trump wants to legalize all the drugs. He kinda put that on the back burner for the campaign though.

    3. The drug war reduces access to drugs

      No, it does not. Certain restrictions may reduce access to certain drugs, but since there’s a lot of substitutability in the drug market, that doesn’t prove much. It’s like banning bacon then declaring a vegan society.

      which reduces addiction

      People get addicted to drugs because they want to do (lots of) drugs. Saying that addiction has been materially reduced by the drug war is laughable. For every pot-smoking kid whose head you might crack, there is a “housewife” hopped up on benzos or a guy with “back pain” who’s popping painkillers.

      which will actually *reduce* crime in the long run

      People want to do drugs. The crime around drugs is a combination of malum in se and malum prohibitum, with the latter fueling some of the former. Prohibit drugs more forcefully, and you just strengthen the black market.

      North Korea executes people for doing or dealing drugs. Their number one problem, besides that whole communism thing, is methamphetamine addiction.

  14. Holy shit, I’m just reading the Cuba comments now… Alice Bowie actually thought there was a naval blockade until last year. I knew he was stupid, but that’s a whole other level of obliviousness.

    1. Wait ’till you get to the bottom with Jack extolling the wonders of the Cdn health-care and tertiary Ed systems! You can tell they’re great; the Cdns had to build a fence to keep the USers out!

    2. If you think Alice is bad, read american socialist. That is one mendacious fuckwit right there.

  15. I guess all these Reason columnists are going to forever maintain that the Garner case was connected to illegal cigaret sales, no matter how many times I & others point out the contradicting facts. You have so many good reasons for so many good things; don’t try to stretch some of them to cover other benefits by bogus evidence.

    1. “Reason columnists are going to forever maintain that the Garner case was connected to illegal cigaret[sp] sales, no matter how many times I & others point out the contradicting facts. “

      huh?

      is there some alternative theory i’ve never heard?

      1. You haven’t paid enough att’n to the comments. He had at least once previously been arrested for such a violation, but it was in another neighborhood.

        In this case he attracted att’n by breaking up a fight on the street. He had no cigarets on him, & none were found in his car. Nobody in the vicinity said there’d been any such sales, nor were cigarets mentioned until after his death. It’s clear that one or more of these police had it in for him for some never-revealed reason, and the whole to-do about cigarets was just an excuse for the arrest given after the fact. Even if all the victimless crime laws were repealed, they could always have said they were arresting him on suspicion of some victimful crime.

        1. Huh? In the video you can hear the cops accusing him of selling loosies. One of them even says another cop witnessed him doing it which he denies.

        2. He’d been arrested multiple times for selling looses. That was why the cops knew him and had developed a habit of harassing him. At one point in the murder tape he says something like “no way, this stops today”. ‘This’ being the habitual harassment of him. As to why the cops had it in for him, I’d bet that the local merchants frequently called the cops complaining about him. Remember Kelly Thomas? The thing that set his lethal encounter in motion was a bar manager calling the cops to get them to move Kelly out of the area, and lied about seeing hi breaking into parked cars to get a response.

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  17. Sanders has previously pointed to police departments as an example of “socialist institutions.”

    It’s “socialist” for the gov’t to enforce the gov’ts laws? O_o
    I don’t think words mean what he thinks they mean.

    But Sanders didn’t really offer any “radical reforms.”

    Lifetime power-seeking politician offers grandiose statement without providing examples. News at 11.

  18. I thought that Sanders was going to send everyone who works on Wall Street to a gulag? Would they count as part of the prison population?

    1. Those are “people”, Drake, so that wouldn’t count.

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  20. “The left has consistently avoided taking its share of responsibility…”

    Stop the Presses!!!!!

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