Criminal Justice

Tom Cotton Says U.S. Facing an 'Under Incarceration' Problem, Slams Criminal Justice Reform as 'Criminal Leniency'

This guy.


Hudson Institute

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) delivered remarks at the Hudson Institute today slamming criminal justice reform efforts as "criminal leniency," re-enforcing myths about the imagined "war on cops" and the link between aggressive policing and lower crime.

Cotton dismissed concerns about the U.S. prison population—the highest in the world—by pointing out that most property and violent crimes go unsolved. "If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem," he declared.

"Law and order in our communities doesn't arise spontaneously," Cotton said at the beginning of his remarks, noting it was police week and the "high cost" public safety comes with. "Men are not angels, after all." Except maybe cops. "Police officers put the badge on every morning, not knowing for sure if they'll come home at night to take it off," Cotton insisted. Law enforcement actually doesn't crack a list of the top 10 most dangerous occupations in the U.S, and cop killings were down in 2015 despite the "war on cop" rhetoric.

Later, Cotton said he had spoken to (an undetermined number of) police officers about (an undetermined number of) police brutality incidents, and "can report that they feel about abusive cops the way most soldiers feel about misconduct in the ranks: they're among the first who wish to see them disciplined." Military service members actually have to operate under stricter rules of engagement than police officers. Cotton served active duty army from 2005 to 2009. Other veterans are shocked by police abuse and the "domestic enemies" it might suggest.

"No officer wants to be involved in a justified use of force proven unnecessary after the fact, any more than soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan wanted to make what proved to be the wrong decision in a shoot-don't-shoot situation," Cotton insisted, continuing the tellingly inappropriate analogy. "Those decisions, even if justified, live with you forever, believe me."

Cotton claimed the drop in crime over the last twenty years was thanks to tougher sentencing, like mandatory minimums, and aggressive policing, like "broken windows." The causal link is far from clear, and higher incarceration rates may have actually slowed the drop in crime.

Cotton mentions the drug war only when marveling at how remarkable it was that crime dropped after the "drug epidemic" of the 1980s. "That epidemic turned streets into literal battlefields, teenagers into foot soldiers, and too many citizens into casualties of the drug wars," Cotton insisted. Drug use is an essentially non-violent behavior—its violent trappings are introduced by the government's prohibition on it. Cotton complains that the sentencing reform effort led by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), applies to far more than just those imprisoned for offense like "mere drug possession."

In Cotton's world, a non-violent felon is more likely to plea down from a more serious offense ("Believe me," Cotton said, "most of them did) than to have been caught up by overzealous prosecutors or police officers.

Cotton's world: "Dedicated prosecutors toil long hours in our courts. Corrections officers and other professionals do the thankless work of administering punishment and, hopefully, providing a path for redemption." It's an aspirational view more than one rooted in reality, a view that leaves no room for prosecutorial misconduct or crooked or abusive prison officials, problems that criminal justice reforms seek to address and that the kind of rhetoric that calls such effort "criminal leniency" seeks to wave away.

Cotton mentioned the Clintons' stances on crime a number of times. He said the high crime rates that he attributed to "lenient" criminal justice were Hillary Clinton's context for talking about "super predators," revealing a shared rhetoric. Cotton credited Bill Clinton for responding to Black Lives Matter protesters by saying they were "defending the people who killed the lives you say matter." Clinton has been a target of protesters for signing the 1994 crime bill into law. He apologized for it last year.

"It's the police who are trying to protect those lives and prevent those murders," Cotton insisted. "What critics of vigilant policing miss is that communities—including minority communities—overwhelmingly approve of 'broken windows' tactics," Cotton pointed out. Cities such as Baltimore and Cleveland, which face problems of systemic police violence, have been run by Democratic politicians for generations, politicians who have pushed for and supported overpolicing in exchange for electoral success.

The problem of systemic police violence is not a byproduct of crime or crime-fighting but a system that protects bad cops through expansive privileges, encourages the zealous passage and enforcement of ever more petty laws, and demands public safety, not freedom or the protection of rights, be government's, and society's, top priority.

Toward the end, Cotton acknowledged the problem with "over-criminalization of private conduct under federal law," saying he was happy to work on "true criminal-justice reform," but such over-criminalization is intertwined with issues like mandatory minimums and the drug war Cotton provided full-throated support to in the same speech.

Other appropriate criminal-justice reform efforts for Cotton include making sure "prisons aren't anarchic jungles that endanger both inmates and corrections officers" and to "promote rehabilitation and reintegration for those who seek it." Whether Cotton will push for a crackdown on corrections unions which historically thwart reform remains to be seen.

No "pro-law and order" throwback would be complete without bellyaching over felons' right to vote. Cotton said he worried restoring the voting rights of felons who have served their sentence threatens, with recidivism, to create a "pro-crime constituency."

"An offender who automatically obtains the franchise will have little reason to buy back into the social contract and no motivation to re-learn the responsibilities of citizenship," Cotton argues. Cotton also argues against "Ban the Box" measures, pointing out that government prohibitions on employers asking about prior criminal history increases the burden on businesses and often simply mean a longer job application process before the eventual denial.

Instead, Cotton argues, felons should find jobs by proving they've reintegrated into society. Gainful employment is a reason to "re-learn the responsibilities of citizenship," if those responsibilities mean self-sufficiency and staying out of other people's business. The idea that there's any released felon out there who is holding it together to win back the right to vote, rather than out of a desire to have a job and stay out of trouble, is ridiculous. Referring to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) without mentioning him by name, Cotton bemoaned "erstwhile political operatives" who automatically restore felons' right to vote "for the electoral benefit of their political paymasters." Republicans concerned such restoration of rights is merely political posturing should demand felons who get their right to vote back get their right to bear arms back too.

Cotton also talked about the "Ferguson effect" (myth) and rejected the idea that the government should exercise fiscal discipline when it comes to law enforcement, asking what, other than national security, was more important for government to spend on.

Cotton closed by channeling his inner Dwight Schrute, the fascistic comic character in The Office who once said he'd rather a thousand innocent men be locked up than one guilty man roam free.

"Pardon me if I err on the side of being a little too tough on crime, rather than a little too soft on crime," the Senator who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution proudly declared, "It's only innocent lives hanging in the balance, after all."

NEXT: Johnson/Weld: The Libertarian Key to Republicans' Hearts? Johnson Already Polling 10 Percent from Fox News

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  1. Ed was clearly drunk when he cranked this one out, but good shit nonetheless.

    Military service members actually have operate under stricter rules of engagement than police officers. Cotton served active duty army from 2005 to 2009. Other veterans are shocked by police abuse and the "domestic enemies" it might suggest.

    This drum needs to be beaten as often and loudly as possible. It's the most clear and effective way of communicating to the public that our cops are held to incredibly low standards.

  2. Just wait a rotten cotton minute second...

    His name is Cotton. From Arkansas.

    /raises eyebrow.

    1. He changed it to run for office. It was originally Tom Cotton-Candy-Ass. Slavic, I think.

  3. What the mutherfucking fuck?

    1. Reading that was like having someone slowly insert a shard of glass into my brain.

      1. What's horrifying is that you know that a huge part of the population would be nod their heads approvingly hearing his bullshit.

        1. I know it's sad. That's why I rarely talk politics in public anymore. I just don't want to hate everyone all of the time.

      2. Shard of glass into where now?

  4. "This guy."

    yeah, there's really no other way to treat this level of stupid

    if anything, this piece is too long and should have been limited to a single dense-paragraph of insults directed at Cotton and anyone who believes his blather.

    e.g. "Nothing that came out of his piehole remotely approached truth. He appealed to the stupid and the fearful, those who fetishize authority for its own sake." etc. etc.

    1. Principal: "Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

  5. "Under incarceration" problem? What a goddamn lowlife. I wonder what illegal conduct he is unaware he is a part of. I'd wager apples to firm tits he'd cry, "well, I didn't know!" If the oinkies showed up to drag him away. Agh!

    1. The first step is to throw Mr. Cotton's ass in jail.

    2. The only under incarceration problem I'm aware of is with congress.

    3. In other parts of the speech, he mentioned how about 19% of property crimes and 47% of violent crimes were solved. How these stats relate to anything to be critical of in the criminal justice reform bill, I'm not sure.

      But maybe if our law enforcement officers weren't chasing after non-violent drug offenders, they'd have more resources for property and violent crimes?

    4. He'd rather a thousand innocent people be falsely labeled as criminals rather than have one criminal falsely labeled as (temporarily) innocent. He simply cannot see any victims other than real victims of real criminals -- if the government mistakenly labels you as a criminal, well, so what, it probably deters other proto-criminals from becoming real criminals, thus saving other people from become real victims.

      The key is that if the government labels you a criminal, you really are one, and are not an innocent victim. He literally cannot see it any other way.

  6. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) delivered remarks at the Hudson Institute today slamming criminal justice reform efforts as "criminal leniency," re-enforcing myths about the imagined "war on cops" and the link between aggressive policing and lower crime

    *WHEW!!!* For a minute there, I was afraid he might actually speak sanely on the matter.

    Faith in the GOP: RESTORED!

    He's such a regular type of guy.

  7. Yeah, we don't want guys like Donald Trump ruining the Republican brand. Fuck.

    1. I see he attended Harvard for his undergraduate and law degrees. I had no idea. That changes everything. He is apparently smarter than me, and better than me, so now I agree with everything he says.

      More laws, more cops, more prisons!

      1. Never question ones betters. It only leads to confusion and disillusionment. Better to just be happy and let them do the thinking for you.

      2. He's also David French's boyfriend.


        1. French stuffs Cotton?

        2. Do you suppose they have to take turns topping since they're both such obvious bottoms?

          1. Tom Cotton is not a bottom. That implies anyone would willingly have sex with Tom Cotton

  8. pointing out that most property and violent crimes go unsolved. "If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem," he declared.

    In a way, he's right. It would be awesome if those property/violent criminals were more incarcerated, but first the cops would have to actually go out and solve those crimes.

    1. Instead of prosecuting the drug war? Well, how is that profitable?

  9. Cotton: I will not stop until every single one of you are in prison.

    Cotton: Where is everyone? I worked hard on this BBQ.
    Lackey (looks down on clipboard): They're all in prison.
    Cotton: Right. Let's eat!
    Lackey: I don't like the look of that pig.

    1. Someone should build a wall around America. A giant prison wall.

      1. No, see the wall is to keep the Mexicans and, even more importantly, the Canadians, out.
        It will never, ever, be used to keep people from leaving.

        1. But who will deliver your jokes and read the news to you Yanks?

  10. "It's only innocent lives hanging in the balance, after all."

    It's even already in quotes for me. Innocent lives lost to the criminal justice system or trigger happy cops don't count?

    1. There are no innocent lives lost to the criminal justice system. Cops only arrest criminals. If you're not a criminal you have nothing to worry about, no cop is going to arrest you. Why would they? You're not a criminal and cops only arrest criminals. Jeez, it's like you don't even logic. Ask any expert - and what better experts are there than the prosecutors - whether or not the cops ever arrest an innocent man. There's a reason prosecutors never question prosecuting the men the cops bring to them - they know cops only arrest criminals. Judges know this, too. They gained this knowedge from their previous experience as prosecutors. So everybody's agreed - only the criminals are treated by the criminal justice system (look, it's right there in the name - criminal justice, not innocent man justice) so the only question is how to make the process as efficient as possible. Personally, I'd do away with the whole "trial" thing. Just have a book of offenses and punishments, the cops arrest you and you go straight to prison, just look up what the cops arrested you for and, boom, there ya go, there's your sentence. How hard can it be? They got computers for this stuff now. Why are we still wasting time and money with all the humans involved in determining sentences?

      1. WOW. That's so perfect that it is absolutely terrifying.

  11. Whenever people bemoan about the lack of veterans in congress, I think of ass clowns like him and McCain and think we might just have a couple too many.

  12. People like Cotton are more dangerous to Americans than ISIS ever will be.This guy loves perpetual war .

  13. Did I miss it or was there a link in the article to a transcript or other source material of Cotten's speech?

    1. It was stolen.

      1. It's criminals all the way down.

    2. Did I miss it or was there a link in the article to a transcript or other source material of Cotten's speech?

      Here you are, Steve G.

  14. Cotton, when he was a Congressman, took some heat for voting against a lot of spending bills, including the larded-up farm bills and disaster relief bills and some pork-barrel projects for his own constituents. And just when you want to applaud a principled guy like that, he turns around and votes to spend every penny we can scrounge up on the military and the police state because there's certainly no waste, fraud, or abuse there, no such thing as unnecessary spending when it comes to our heroes in uniform. And you realize just as principled and obdurate he is on the things you like, he's just as unwavering a goobersmooch on the things you want to punch him in the head for. There are bad men out there, and we need good men like Tom Cotton to defend against them. Nevermind the question of how we can be sure the men eager to defend us aren't some of the bad men we need defending against, good shepherds like Tom Cotton know who are the bad and which the good. (Hint: Good guy wear uniforms. You can always trust a man in uniform.) At heart, Tom Cotton sees himself as a good shepherd - but remember that no matter how good the shepherd is, he still thinks you're a sheep.

    1. You know who else wore uniforms?

      1. Catholic schoolgirls?

      2. The Yankees. Fuck those buggers too.

      3. Shriners?

      4. Japanese schoolgirls?

    2. Maybe Mr. Cotton can find the part of the Constitution that establishes the Federal government as responsible for setting national police and incarceration policy? Oh, right, there isn't one...

  15. I've already seen this guy's name mentioned as a future GOP presidential candidate.

    1. Never happen. It's a poorly kept secret in Arkansas that he's a sodomite.

  16. I wish Tom Cotton would just defect to Cuba already. Both he and we would be happier.

  17. Who is Michael Robertson, and what is he up to?

  18. If most property and violent crimes go unsolved... who the hell are we putting in prison?

    1. Hitler?

    2. People who aren't actually guilty of anything that should be crimes?

  19. OT: Don't know if this made the rounds yet: ISIS executes 25 people by dropping them in acid

    Made me think of this.

    Soon, soon you shall witness wonders, a fearsome struggle you shall see.
    The battles shall be waged within your home, my sword has been sharpened to destroy you.
    We marched through the night to cut and behead, with the blade of revenge that attacks those who deserve it.
    With the spirits of night and the young men of terror, and a grievous explosion to defeat [the enemy].
    You launched a war against me, O misguided coalition, so have a taste of the calamity that shall befall you.
    You shall spend a long time suffering under my sword, and who shall you face? The young men who cry 'Allah Akbar.'

    1. It's not OT, it's a thread about religious fanatics

  20. Drunken birthday request: Insult me. It shouldn't be particularly hard to find cause for it. I don't exactly light up the boards with profound thoughts or flowery verbiage. Just consider me your Derp correspondent in DerpLand.

    *regarding the insults; I've mentioned before I'm slighty masochistic. Don't disappoint me, you ruthless bastards. Ha!*

    1. I'd call you a cunt but you lack both the depth and the warmth.

      How's that?

      Happy birthday!

    2. You're worse than Winston.

    3. You misspelled your name again.

      Congratulations on living another year, Otto .

      (Honestly, Trigger, I cannot recall anything reality-based with which to insult you)

    4. I know you have to be one of the few real commenters here - Tulpa wouldn't even wear you as a sock.

    5. Happy Birthday, Trigger!

      You went to an empty libertarian chat room on your fucking birthday, loser.


      1. No shit. What a loser. 🙂

    6. How sad, having lost your youth and good looks you are now trolling Reason for abuse like the pathetic attention crack whore you are.

      1. LOL, like anyone who comments here ever had good looks

    7. Marvelous!

      *stumbling to a standing ovation, falls on ass*

    8. I've mentioned before I'm slighty masochistic. Don't disappoint me, you ruthless bastards.


  21. Another escaped lobotomy subject posing as a senator.

  22. Spot the Not: military training films

    1. Stay Alert, Stay Alive

    2. How to Succeed with Brunettes

    3. Combat in Deep Snow and Extreme Cold

    4. Fighting Men: Keep it Clean

    5. Know Your Clouds

    6. Your Friend the Grenade

  23. Is Tom Cotton the worst person in congress? Discuss

    1. It's so tonedeaf I've to wonder if he was instructed (or decided on his own) to say such shit in hopes of stirring up controversy & distraction.

      1. He looks low-IQ and unhealthy though, so he might actually believe what he's saying.

        I shouldn't be baffled that such overtly awful people get elected, but I am.

    2. Well, he has to compete with the likes of Chuckles Man Tits Schumer and Peter "The only good terrorist is an Irish terrorist" King, so...

  24. Hey, eddie!
    "Pope: Exploiting workers for profit is a mortal sin"
    "According to a Vatican Radio transcript of his homily, Francis said: "Living off the blood of people, this is a mortal sin! A mortal sin. And it requires so much penance, so much restitution to be absolved of this sin."
    Example #n of RCC hypocrisy.

    1. This guy is a fraud. Scripture says nothing of the sort. He's making things up as he goes. He's no better than a cop making up laws and convicting people on the spot.

      See Matthew 25:14-30 for an example of profit expectations.

  25. So, Trump VP pick?

  26. '"can report that they feel about abusive cops the way most soldiers feel about misconduct in the ranks: they're among the first who wish to see them disciplined."'

    i don't doubt this is theory. the problem lies with the definition police use to define's so lenient as to be non existent really.

    tom cotton is one of the few politicians that really truly scares me.

  27. Trump! Making first daughters hot again!

  28. Spot the Not: Tom Cotton

    1. Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office.

    2. Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings.

    3. I will now yield the floor, but I will never yield in the defense of America's national security at any time or on any front.

    4. If men have easy access to divorce, many will choose it thoughtlessly. They may not gain true happiness with their new trophy wives, but they certainly will not slide into the material indigence and emotional misery that awaits most divorced women

    5. Counterfeit marriages and so-called civil unions are a threat to the health of our society, particularly families and children.

    6. The problem of end-to-end encryption isn't just a terrorism issue. It is also a drug-trafficking, kidnapping, and child-pornography issue that impacts every state of the union. It's unfortunate that the great company Apple is becoming the company of choice for terrorists, drug dealers, and sexual predators of all sorts.

  29. Cotton is high.

    1. So we're walking in High Cotton?

  30. *twiddles thumbs, waits for AC to grace the thread with late-night wisdom*

  31. I think policing is a somewhat tricky issue for libertarians.

    One the one hand, we aren't anarchists, and when cops are doing what they're supposed to be doing, in the way they're supposed to be doing it, I think many of us have the inclination to support them.

    But on the other hand, as long as we have laws on the books against nonviolent acts (victimless "crimes"), it's hard to see police as anything but an enemy.

    End the war on prostitution. End the war on drugs. End the speed traps. Get us to a place where we smile and say "Hi!" when we see our local officers. You know?

    1. Of course I've only scratched the surface of what needs to be done, but you probably get the gist of what I'm saying here, I hope.

    2. I don't think it's a "tricky" issue for us so much as an issue that the vast majority of the public don't agree with us on (one way or the other). The left won't accept that the average person has as much right to use force in defense of life, liberty, and property--his own or his neighbors'--as the government does, and the right won't accept that government police forces should be viewed with the same skepticism and restraint as any other government agency--if not moreso, since they are the ultimate enforcement arms of every government policy. And the people who support the policies you mention want them enforced more vigorously, not less.

      Which is not to say that libertarians don't disagree among themselves, but our positions on the matter almost invariably place all of us on the same side vis-a-vis the status quo.

      1. I can't disagree. I guess I'm just holding out hope that most people really would support those reforms if given a real choice instead of the usual "choose this mad tyrant or this insane despot".

    3. I think policing is a somewhat tricky issue for libertarians.

      Not really.

      Having privatized police forces is a fairly straightforward Libertarian solution.

      1. I'm open to the concept but skeptical.

        Does it make much difference if police are public or private if they're still extorting, imprisoning, and killing nonviolent citizens? I've read a few bits about private police taking over traffic stops in some areas, and I've thought: How is that supposed to be better? I'm just being harassed by someone with a different logo on their car.

        We certainly need body cams, transparency, accountability, etc. But those things won't change the fact that society is asking police to enforce fundamentally unjust laws. I'm more concerned about getting rid of those bad laws than whether police should be privatized or not.

    4. Please research Anarchy and you may find out that you ar an anarchist at heart. And cops always do what cops are supposed to do and that is protect the rich and their lacky's from the commoners. Start looking at history and you will find that police were never there for the common good but to do the bidding of the town bosses

      1. I'm a voluntaryist at heart, but I'm also a jaded realist, and I'm not sold on private police and military. I do want to read more about the ideas and what they might actually look like in practice.

  32. My best friend's ex-wife makes $95/hr on the laptop. She has been unemployed for 6 months but last month her income with big fat bonus was over $15000 just working on the laptop for a few hours.

    Read more on this site.---------------------------

  33. Cotton's point-of-view is risible, and talking tough about crime is low-hanging fruit for lazy politiciams. After all, if you disagree, you must love crime and criminals.

    1. Cops and police forces, like teachers and schools, are now viewed as underfunded and underappreciated despite that the average (voting) person's opinion of both is fairly positive and they are both funded, in salaries and programs, at all-time highs even when adjusted for inflation.

  34. I highly recommend watching the latest episode of Independent Lens, which is about the militarization of the police. It was very well done. People here probably won't learn anything new, but it's still well worth the watch.

  35. Well I voted for Tom Cotton. Now that he has shown what an idiot he is whoever runs against him gets my vote. The only under incarceration in this country is the political class. From congressmen who do insider trading to judges that make law instead of enforcing it and that brides to give longer sentences, to state and local politicians that write laws to rob people of THEIR money. I think every member of Congress should spend at least 10 years at hard labor for things they may have done. Think I am being a bit unfair then turn off the boob tube and start researching your local politicians past and present. After you get really sick go to your bedroom and lock yourself away like you have all your life. Please remember two things. If you are part of the game you are the problem and that the only good government is NO government.

  36. You know, if these losers are going to keep peddling the bullshit about a "war on cops" then we might as well make it worth their while. There's no war on pigs as of now, but I say bring it on.

  37. No, Senator Cotton, I will not pardon you for deliberately erring on the side of being too tough on crime. By seeking to chop down the laws, in your lust to punish criminals, you have made yourself a criminal: An oathbreaker and an enemy of the rule of law. In a ruder culture, your actions would make you an outlaw undeserving of the protection of the laws you seek to destroy, and a wolf's head with the hand of every honest man raised against you.

    But in the here and now, you live and breath, rather than being shot down like a dangerous rabid animal. This is not for any merit you possess, but solely because men better than you seek to preserve their civilization and their own humanity.

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