Criminal Justice

Democrats Have No Excuse Not to Reform the Criminal Justice System

Now is the time to act.

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Democrats now have the luxury of a unified government. Controlling the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House gives them an opportunity to do many things they have claimed to care about but have complained about being blocked by Republicans. And so, this opportunity is also one for others to hold Democrats accountable if they don't actually do what they insist they wish to do.

Reforming our criminal justice system is a good place to start. During last summer's demonstrations to protest the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, demands were voiced for racial equality and police reform. Democrats such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) and then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) never missed an opportunity to eagerly support the crowds demanding change.

Now that Democrats are in power, it's time to act. They could change some of the rules that lead to over-criminalization, excessive reliance on punitive enforcement, and mass incarceration. While most criminal justice policy is set at the state level, the federal government can play an important role in reform. Starting with this issue has the advantage of being an uncommon area where Republicans and Democrats have successfully worked together in the past. The bipartisan nature of this effort would also send a strong signal that this administration is serious about unity and that President Joe Biden's promises of reconciliation made during his inauguration speech weren't just political posturing.

If we want fewer people arrested and imprisoned, as a first step in such reform, Congress could make the use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana legal. Many states have already done so. It's time for our federal government to update its outdated and intrusive rules. While Congress has made clear that it doesn't want federal law enforcement to interfere with state-level medical marijuana programs, the Department of Justice continues to focus on the production and distribution of marijuana, regardless of state legalization. Besides, abstaining from prosecuting is quite different from decriminalizing or legalizing.

Marijuana businesses operating legally according to their state laws never know if the feds will knock on their door one day and put them out of business or send them to jail. If Congress and President Biden were to update these laws, it would go a long way toward arresting and imprisoning fewer people.

Democrats could also implement police reform to help root out the problem of abuse that was at the center of last summer's protests. They can start by scaling back qualified immunity, which would make it easier for plaintiffs to recover damages against officers who are sued and found guilty of abusing their authority (which is a whole can of worms in and of itself). Then, Democrats could end the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level and end the transfer of military weapons and vehicles to local police departments to wage what is essentially warfare on American citizens—two factors at the heart of the police killing last March of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. They could also ban chokeholds at the federal level, a tactic responsible for the deaths of both Eric Garner and George Floyd.

Pushing these reforms through Congress should be easy enough, since they were all part of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 bill that passed the House last summer. It never got through the Senate, as Republicans didn't want to take on a bill that was destined to receive then-President Donald Trump's veto. That was then. President Biden is in office now. Also, while Vice President Kamala Harris has spent most of a career eagerly enforcing the worst drug regulations, the campaign trail has given her a change of heart.

Finally, Democrats in Washington should abolish the federal death penalty. This would finally guarantee that a repeat of the recent spree in federal executions under Trump never happens again. (Sixteen people have been executed by the federal government since 1977, including 10 in 2020 and three in 2021.) At a time when people are demanding reform of government rules that disproportionally affect minorities, this change should be a no-brainer. A recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice notes, "There is substantial evidence that the death penalty is applied inequitably in the United States."

Democrats have the power to show that their statements about wanting to reform the system weren't just pandering and posturing. Now is the time to act.

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  1. If they repeal the death penalty, they’re not going to be able to execute all those insurrectionists after their very public, very embarrassing show trials.

    Wake the fuck up, twats. You’ve been played. I thought libertarians were supposed to be smart.

    1. Trump can’t tweet mean things about their friends and social circle anymore so they got their win. Now they can be the edgy kids at the lunch table again, oh wait we still can’t do that anymore because we live under a totalitarian lockdown regime of slavish science worshipers.

      1. Good vibes, though. Nothing but media good vibes. Bad vibes were exhausting. Good vibes, man.

        1. It’s safe for them to call out the media again because now they can’t immediately be called trumpers. These people are so blue pilled it’s unbelievable. Even suggesting they could understand why 74 million people voting for trump publicly is too far beyond the pale. They are mostly fucking cowards.

          1. They can immediately be called libertarians, however. Libertarians, to be clear, are on the exact same purge list as the diehard Trumpers, Q-anon fanatics, and even Nazis.

            Reason’s obsequiousness secured them the proverbial last slot on the crocodile’s lunch menu, and they couldn’t be more proud.

            1. Geiger Goldshit is full of shit again! What a surprise!

              Reason’s obsequiousness? You mean like the below? You call Reason obsequious, merely because they are FAR less talented at orange-dick-sucking than you are, oh obsequious, Trump-adoring wonder child!

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    2. They can always make a death penalty exception for insurrectionists.

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  2. Nominating Biden and Harris screams of a party serious about criminal justice reform.

    1. The only thing that they were moderate about was the fact that they was the wink and the nod that they were the actual “tough on crime” candidates.

    2. What do you mean?

      Sure, Harris spends her free time chuckling to herself while photoshopping her own face over the guards in the Abu Ghraib photos. But when pressed on it she told us it was just because “she was bored, and it was funny as f*ck.”

      And I think it’s really racist of you to not accept that.

      1. Harris is a former prosecutor. Yeah, that just screams criminal justice reformer.

    3. This is what I was saying all election.

      If you wanted a literal “Systemic Racism” ticket, you’d start with a guy who’s been authoring racist laws for decades. Then you’d add in a corrupt DA who uses those laws to lock up minorities, even if she knows they are innocent.

      1. and declines to prosecute cops, even if she knows they are guilty

  3. What politicians need is an exit review by the people. Their pension and even freedom should be directly determined by a vote of the people.

    Change ballots from just a list of names to include with the incumbent two simple questions:

    * What percentage of his pension does the incumbent deserve for his last term?
    * How many years of jail does the incumbent deserve for his last term?

    The pension one is easy. If pensions accumulate at 1% of pay per year, then 50 years means you retire at half pay. If the voters set an average of 50% for an election review, that cuts it in half for that term. Naturally no incumbent will receive an across-the-board 100% from every voter, but re-election supporters will provide some boost over opponents.

    The jail one is less easy. Might be a percentage of his last term; if the voters average 10% and it was a 6 year Senator, he accumulates .6 of a year, payable when he loses re-election. But as much as I’d like that, it is a terrible incentive. Jail should be an unusual result, not the norm. Maybe it does not accumulate and only applies after the last term. Maybe it only applies if more than 50% of the term length.

    1. If we were really going to do this-

      On that first question, things are polarized enough right now that most D voters will give an R incumbent 0% and vice versa. The highest pensions would tend to go to politicians from deep blue or deep red districts like San Francisco and Wyoming, the lowest to swing districts. I’d suggest adjusting the formula to account for that.

      For the same reason, incumbents in swing districts are going to be averaging jail terms half their regular terms. I’d say jail only kicks in if more than 60% of the voters give a non-zero answer.

      1. I wouldn’t mind biased districts leaving high pensions; it means they did represent the district.

        The jail question is more problematic and could probably never be implemented fairly. On the other hand, maybe all politicians deserve to go to jail. Maybe it should be part of the office: every incumbent who loses an election should spend the next term in jail or picking up litter.

        1. Or make it that the district has to pay the pension

    2. 50% pensions, good one.

  4. Aww, that’s cute. You think they need an excuse.

    1. Of course they need an excuse, otherwise people might…..
      Well, shit, I guess you’re right.

    2. Give it some time, Reason will come up with something.

  5. so far the only serious reform they are doing is expanding legal definitions to punish their enemies.

  6. If we want fewer people arrested and imprisoned, as a first step in such reform, Congress could make the use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana legal.

    Now this one is actually an easy EO. Wake up ol’ sleepy Joe and remind him that nothing on schedule 1 can have proven medicinal uses. Then get his attention again, and point out that “the science” has proven the devil weed to have medical uses. Since leaving marijuana on schedule 1 is illegal, he must direct the DOJ to follow the law and remove it from schedule 1

    1. No, they signed a UN treaty to the effect that they won’t reschedule marijuana so there’s nothing they can do. Everybody knows the UN is the ultimate power in the United States and you can’t fight them.

      1. Since the treaty can, by it’s own terms, get un-ratified with one or two years’ notice, you can be sure that anyone who invokes that treaty is blowing smoke (so to speak).

      2. “Everybody knows the UN is the ultimate power in the United States and you can’t fight them.”

        Well… you could, but then European countries might have contempt and disdain for us. Hell, some Middle Eastern and Asian countries might even outright hate us if we rocked the international boat. Is that really the kind of horror you want to impose on Americans.

  7. Don’t worry. Biden will definitely implement the Koch / Reason #EmptyThePrisons agenda. Then Charles Koch can have even more highly-skilled labor in addition to what he’ll gain from the #OpenTheBorders agenda.

    #GetReadyForTheKochComeback

  8. Democrats have the power to show that their statements about wanting to reform the system weren’t just pandering and posturing. Now is the time to act.

    FTFY

    1. Democrats have the power to show that their statements about wanting to reform the system weren’t just pandering and posturing. Now is the time to act.

      Take two.

      *** gets coffee ***

  9. They have the best excuse ever – – –

    “We have to focus on “the trial”.
    Everything else must wait. If it is real important, Joe will send out a memo.

    1. But will he read it to see what it says before he sends it? And if he reads it, will he remember that he read it?

      1. What difference, at this point, does it make?

        1. Hey, that’s my line!

  10. “Starting with this issue has the advantage of being an uncommon area where Republicans and Democrats have successfully worked together in the past.”

    That’s a reason for them *not* to do it. They need to define themselves as the country’s saviors against an evil Other. You can’t treat the evil Other as people to be chummy with.

    “The bipartisan nature of this effort would also send a strong signal that this administration is serious about unity and that President Joe Biden’s promises of reconciliation made during his inauguration speech weren’t just political posturing.”

    lol

    1. Save the bipartisanship for running up a huge national debt.

    2. Filing impeachment charges on Day One already signaled how serious they are about unity.

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  13. Democrats could also implement police reform to help root out the problem of abuse that was at the center of last summer’s protests. They can start by scaling back qualified immunity, which would make it easier for plaintiffs to recover damages against officers who are sued and found guilty of abusing their authority (which is a whole can of worms in and of itself).

    Don’t hold your breath on that.

    1. IIRC, a lot of cops backed Trump in the election. Biden is going to want to shore up as much support as he can, I don’t seem him pissing off the cop union by going after qualified immunity.

      Especially not while they’re still quaking in their boots about right wing extremists standing on their desks and stealing their laptops. This is not the time to piss off the brave heroes protecting our democracy from insurrectionists.

      1. By cop union, you mean cop union, teacher’s union, social worker’s union, child protective services unions, prison guard’s unions, firefighter’s unions, CDMHP unions… I could go one. 100% of those people I listed benefit from Qualified Immunity. Anyone, and I mean anyone who has direct and potentially sensitive contact with the public benefits from QI.

        That means a firefighter who doesn’t pull a family member out of a burning house fast enough could be sued directly by the family. And again, don’t get confused between successfully sued, it just means you can be sued.

        Any attempt to fuck with QI will result in a phalanx of unions you’ve never heard of moving to stop it. And in the vanishingly rare case that a locality might be able to tweak qualified immunity, it will just shift the burden of lawsuit through other legal means such as the locality indemnifying the individual or group who can now be sued, and will put all kinds of caps on damages, and probably be forced to carry ‘malpractice’ insurance (negotiated by union contract) for the affected group. At best, you’ll end up with a new layer of byzantine rules which result in the exact same outcome, with no individual actor every actually seeing the inside of a courtroom. See Colorado’s “qualified immunity reform”.

        1. No, that is not what Qualified Immunity means.

      2. Shorter: Qualified Immunity isn’t a “cop” problem, it’s a public sector employee protection regimen that covers government worker’s from horizon to horizon.

        1. Snippets from the web, QI protecting other classes of govt employees having nothing to do with cops.

          the court found that child protective caseworkers were entitled to qualified immunity in connection with the removal of a child from the custody of her parents during a child abuse investigation. In the Sixth Circuit and the District of Columbia Circuit the type of immunity depends on the particular task the worker is doing. In Gray v. Poole, [7] the court held that qualified immunity covers social workers acting as investigators, while social workers testifying as witnesses are protected by absolute immunity.

          1. It was also used by a school principal in the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case I just posted about in another thread.

            You are correct, QI is usable by basically anyone in government. The most common cases involve cops, but really anyone in government can use it to violate your rights and face no punishment.

            1. QI has been invoked in lawsuits against teachers, social workers, and many others.

      3. “This is not the time to piss off the brave heroes protecting our democracy from insurrectionists.”

        You would think so, but then you see the way they’ve been treating the National Guard.

  14. “Democrats Have No Excuse Not to Reform the Criminal Justice System”
    Other then the fact they elected two of its biggest opponents as President and Vice President. And whatever rhetorical support they gave to reform during the campaign will likely now change now that they’re going after “Right-wing extremists.”

  15. Oh, they can come up with excuses.

    They might not talk about the real ones in public, but they can have excuses.

  16. “Democrats… Reform”

    Good one!

  17. For the first two years under Obama, the Democrats had control of both sides of Congress, with a full majority in the Senate, not a split Senate. They did nothing to advance criminal justice reform then, I can’t fathom why you imagine that they would do so now.

    1. The House Democrats put forward all kinds of criminal justice reform bills when the Republicans control the Senate and they know nothing will reach the President’s desk. When they control both sides of Congress and the White House…[crickets chirping].

  18. The Democrats just imposed martial law in DC (by falsely claiming Trump supporters would attack/kill them), and yesterday the Biden administration issued a bogus “terror alert” targeting Trump supporters and everyone who opposed/s unscientific, unconstitutional and economically disastrous Democrat lockdowns.

    And of course, Trump already reformed much of the War on Drugs criminal justice travesties that were championed by Joe Biden as a Senator, and by Kamala Harris as a prosecutor in CA.

    1. lol oh man this thng

      Summary
      The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security has issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin due to a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration. Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.

      lol did they ever accuse Islamic terrorists of false narratives?

      DHS emphasizing the definite falseness of the narratives really projects confidence in the legitimacy of the outcome

      evokes Jimmy Carter singing the praises of Venezuelan elections under Hugo

  19. You mean the Democrats have no excuse to not undo the last 50 years of the President’s and VP’s, along with most of the Democrats and Republican members of Congress’ work over the last 5 decades?

    I hope you did not vote for Biden because you believed, after he picked Harris as VP, that ‘his views have evolved’.

    1. No, Biden was voted for because Trump represented such an existential threat to the union that Biden would at least be “wrong within normal parameters”.

      1. we needed to elect Palpatine to defeat the Trade Alliance

        1. sorry, Trade Federation

          anyways the lesson here is never blockade Naboo without an exit plan

  20. They have no excuse in police reform, they just aren’t interested.

    Unless they are going to defund the police and use the military instead. Technically that’s reform.

  21. Let’s recap:

    President Biden authored a “tough on crime” bill as a Senator.
    VP Harris locked up lots of people in California.
    Several cities run by Democrats for decades have had mass uprisings resulting from trigger happy and/or racist cops, who are protected by the police unions who contribute to keeping the Democrat politicians in office.

    Yup, they have no excuse not to clean up their own mess.

  22. Reason peddles a lot of mendacious naivete these days; this article is a perfect example. What the Democrats have a perfect chance to do is turn the USA into post-1968 Czechoslovakia and they’re going to do it with the new voting law and “domestic terrorism” legislation.

    1. I thought Czechoslovakia was supposed to be pretty good after 1968.

      1. “I thought Czechoslovakia was supposed to be pretty good after 1968.”
        Try “Post War”, Tony Judt and get back to us.

  23. haven’t you read Thomas Wolfe? reform is not their goal, they really want liberal approbation

    do people grasp yet what that means? perhaps they are only starting to

    reform, ha

    they are merely going to take that awful justice system and direct its might away from the Aggrieved (those with class/ethnic grievances) and towards the Aggressors (everyone else).

    thus the laws will be enforced to the letter (and beyond) against some, and not at all against others

    the law is a causeway, and they believe your political identity should determine how narrow or broad

    already there are laws being passed petty crime should be dismissed as a mental illness to avoid prosecuting too many of the Aggrieved

  24. I’m 51 years old. Minneapolis has had a Republican mayor for exactly one day in my lifetime. If Democrats wanted to ‘reform police departments’, they’ve been in position to do so for decades.

    They won’t, because they really don’t have to. What else are people going to do, let the Nazis win?

  25. Sure they do: TRUMP!!!!
    Sufficient to drive assholish comments and behavior for the past four years.

  26. So far as I know, “transfers of military equipment” to Louisville PD had nothing whatever to do with Breanna Taylor’s death. While I have a problem with transferring surplus MRAPs to LEAs, that has to do with the vehicles’s unsuitability for police applications, not with their origin.

    A properly applied carotid restraint will not kill anyone. I was rendered unconscious more than once in training, as were my academy classmates. Eric Garner died of underlying health issues and George Floyd died of underlying health issues exacerbated by his ingestion of controlled substances. All either of them had to do was not resist arrest and they’d have survived.

  27. What is happening today the democrats have been working for decades to get. But they are not yet to the point where they can have an Imperial President. However if they make as much progress in the next four years as they have in the last four years they will reach their goal of being the only party that will ever hold power again. Now it may happen before the next presidential election because Biden has already said in a news interview that if what he is ask to do violated his morals that he would find a reason to retire, more than likely a medical reason. So if Biden resign for medical reason or other reason and K Harris becomes president it could happen during her term which she is filling out for Biden.
    From what I here the democrats and the news media supporters of the democrats they are trying with all their might to get the republicans seen as enemies of the state. Now that included only the republicans and libertarians that voted for Trump that would be 74 million Americans that would go the government watch list. This would give them the right to surveil every action of these 74 M people without a warrant. Given enough time the government investigative services WILL be able to find somethin that the person can be charged with.
    At one time I would have said that could not happen here in the United States but that was before the FBI and other agencies did what they did in surveilling Trump and his supporter running up to the eventual impeachment of Trump. One FBI agent has pleaded guilty for falsifying an email which was used to get warrants to surveil Trump’s supporters. It has been recommended that that agent no time in the lockup for his actions.
    Much of the leaks that plagued Trumps administration, I believe, was because the bureaucrats which supported the democrats and hated Trump was the reason behind them. All of these events just to get Trump out of office. Since that failed now the democrats are saying that Trump caused the riots and the infiltrating of the halls of congress by a tweet even though we know now that the FBI and the Capitol Police knew two days before the Jan 6 incident that a riot was planned yet they did not try to stop it until it was a riot and had accomplished the purpose it was allowed to take place. So my question is why were there only a few Capitol Police on hand and some of the police apparently escorted the rioters into the halls of congress. Also there were a absence of FBI agents also. WHY? WHY?

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