Has President Obama Been Good or Bad for Criminal Justice Reform?

Washington Post columnist Radley Balko talks progress on criminal justice reform, the state of crime in America, and ways to reform policing.

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"I think Obama has been kind of revolutionary [on criminal justice reform] in that he has said things that no other sitting President has ever said before," says Radley Balko, columnist with the Washington Post. "That said, most of the revolutionary aspects of the administration have been about saying things and not necessarily doing things."

Balko writes a column, The Watch, which covers civil liberties and the criminal justice system and he sat down with Reason TV editor in chief, Nick Gillespie in Nashville to talk about progress made in criminal justice reform.

Edited by Paul Detrick. Shot by Detrick, Todd Krainin and Joshua Swain.

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  1. If I look down blog, I see he was involved in a joint action with San Diego PD to seize every dollar a legitimate business man had, without charging him with a crime.

    But he pardoned some folks.

    So what does that mean? Dunno. Maybe that he doesn’t want you in prison, but just wants your stuff?

    1. “If you like your current stuff, you can keep it.”

    2. The Clinton Foundation cant get cash from locking people up but it can from civil forfeiture.

    3. Has there ever been a leftist who doesn’t want your stuff?

      1. A leftist is explaining redistribution to a man and the man, seeking to understand further, asks, “If you had two houses, would you give one to the government to give to the less fortunate?”

        The leftist responds “Yes, definitely, I would give one of my houses to the government!”

        Then he asks, “If you had two cars, would you give one to the government?”

        Again, the leftist says, “Yes, I would give one of my cars to the government!”

        Finally, the man asks, “If you had two shirts, would you give one to the government?”

        The leftist responds, “No!

        So the officer asks “But why? Why won’t you give one of your shirts to the government to give to the less fortunate?”

        The leftist says, “Because I have two shirts!”

    4. Right, you don’t imprison your subjects. That prevents them from making more money for you to take.

      Bandits figured this out long ago.

      1. you don’t imprison your subjects. That prevents them from making more money for you to take.

        +1 Negan…

        1. Flaw with the Negan thing. He killed one more person than he had to to make the point. One less worker bee.

    5. It means he rewards his friends and punishes his enemies, which is just about the only thing he truly excels at.

  2. Has President Obama Been Good or Bad for Criminal Justice Reform?
    Obama continued the militarization of police officers. Obama kept prisoners at Gitmo. Obama kept the War on Drugs alive.

    Obama intervened to save Hillary from indictment for mishandling classified information.

    I say Obama was bad on criminal justice reform.

    1. I agree that Obama’s criminal justice reform has been pathetic if not invisible, but I question the role of the militarization of the police. I don’t think it’s fair to lay that at his feet unless you’re talking about federal agencies. What state and local police do is outside his jurisdiction.

      I question the whole “militarization of the police as a problem” argument. How is the community served less or how do individuals lose any rights based upon the vehicles the police are driving, the uniform they wear, or the weapons they carry? If you want to make an economics case that’s fine but I don’t see a valid rights infringement or deteriorated services argument. If any of the commentariat has a good argument, I’d love to hear it.

      1. The militarization of police weapons and gear is not without a corresponding militarization of mentality. Part of dressing up in “combat” gear is when you “engage” the “enemy” you go into “combat”. Much police work is centered around what amounts to doing battle with citizens. “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us” isn’t the mindset of “servants”. The result of this mentality is evident in flash banged babies and shot social workers. You have no rights once you are dead and the police have killed over 1200 people in the US so far THIS YEAR.

        The original English Bobby did not carry a gun and specifically wore blue, because red was the color of soldiers. It was generally recognized that soldiers were meant for combating enemies and that soldiering a free people was anathema.

  3. Deform, maybe?

  4. Umm…bad? Unless we’re talking in a sort of God Emperor of Dune make it so bad that humanity is genetically scarred by the experience, in which case maybe good?

  5. He also is mainly just reducing sentences. Not pardoning.

    Honestly, I took it as: “The system is mostly great at present, but it’s just a tad too mean”.

  6. If anyone doesn’t watch the video, please watch 30-40 seconds of it at around @10:20.

    1. Summary, for people who don’t watch videos at work?

      1. “There are some municipalities in St. Louis County where there are five, six or seven outstanding arrest warrants for every person who lives in the county. “

        1. I think that’s a misstatement.

          I think he meant for “…for every person who lives in the [municipality]. ”

          St Louis County has 1M people.

          Some municipalities are tiny (e.g. St. Anne has 13K).

          1. About the St. Ann Police Department:
            The St. Ann Police Department is a progressive agency of 38 sworn officers and 13 civilians. The St. Ann Police Department works to serve the community with many innovative programs, such as Citizens Police Academy and CERT program (Citizen Emergency Response Team), which covers disaster preparedness, disaster fire suppression, disaster medical operations, and light search and rescue.

            Not exactly Andy and Barney keeping the piece (intentional).

          2. That may be, but even then, imagine a city with more arrest warrants than the population of the city itself. Wasn’t there a story where one municipality actually had a policy to write tickets at a rate greater than the population of the city’s population– something like two or three tickets for every man, woman and child living there?

    2. Balko says that civil asset forfeitures, fines, and court costs shouldn’t be line items in the municipal budget.

      But how are municipalities supposed to pay pensions to their cops and bureaucrats?

      Property values are stagnant and the state has limits on property and sales tax rates. They’ve already borrowed to the hilt.

  7. Balko, if that was shot at your home, you’ve got some ugly drapes, man.

    1. How’s his carpet?

  8. Just keep signing those pardons and/or reprieves, Mr. President, and when you’re through we can give a balanced assessment of your legacy.

  9. I like this Balko fellow. I don’t care what the rest of you say.

    1. Reason should look into hiring him?

    2. Balko is what a journalist is supposed to be.

      He should be a role model, and aspiring journalists should attempt to emulate his career.

      But instead they are more likely to ape weaselly, politically correct, statist sycophants like Ezra Klein.

      1. I like Ezra Klein. He does a pretty good interview (most people are terrible at interviews), and The Weeds is a pretty unique in-depth assessment of various topics. He can be a bit pompous though, even sanctimonious.

      2. But instead they are more likely to ape weaselly, politically correct, statist sycophants like Ezra Klein

        That’s certainly the model the new blood at Reason Magazine seems to be following.

  10. “Reform” doesn’t include pardons, commutations, etc. Those don’t make you a reformer.

    Reform involves systemic change. It does not include talking about change, it includes making the changes.

    On that scoreboard, Obama isn’t much of a reformer at all.

    You could also throw in how he managed opportunities for reform. On that front, I think he looks pretty bad, as he punted the opportunity to make real reform happen by refusing to deschedule pot and do other things that are within his power to ramp down the WOD.

    1. “Reform” doesn’t include pardons, commutations, etc. Those don’t make you a reformer.

      It makes you an empathizer though!

    2. Obama kinda, sorta led the charge to reduce the crack-to-powder cocaine disparity from 100:1 to just 12:1. He was more or less leading from behind, but he was still kinda, sorta leading.

      Besides that, nothing, absolutely nothing, comes to mind.

      Texas, of all places, stands out in the area of real criminal justice reform. Prison population in Texas has fallen from 173,649 in 2010 to 143,102 in 2015. This has largely been the result of efforts of libertarian-leaning conservative groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Still there are way too many in Texas prisons for controlled substance “crimes”.

      In Texas, libertarian groups like TPPF and progressive groups like ACLU formed a coalition to continue the reduction in imprisonment as a cure for social ills.

  11. Obama has been awful. He has helped legitimize the opacity that LEO’s use to protect themselves. Like so many Progressives, he has championed the idea of law by whim, each case decided according to the prejudices of the Ruling Class. Now, that has always been a feature of government, but Obama apparently wants to push it mack to pre-industrial levels.

    Obama is a petty minded braying jackass. The African American community will be generations living him down, assuming they eventually catch on.

  12. Yes, Obama has been revolutionary alright – he has managed to turn the US into a banana republic.

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  15. It is time Americans become aware of the true travesty that is taking place in this country. Let me share the story of Lenny Singleton.

    Lenny committed a series of “grab & dash” robberies in 1 week while high on alcohol 7 crack. He did not have a gun. He did not murder anyone. In fact, no one was even physically injured and no one claimed to be his “victim.” He stole less than $550 total & these were his first felonies. He earned a college degree & served in our Navy before his addiction.

    What he needed was some help with his addiction. What he got was 2 Life Sentences plus 100 years w/ no chance at parole. The judge, w/o any explanation to Lenny, sentenced him to more time than child molesters & murderers.

    While in prison, Lenny works every business day, lives in the Honor’s Dorm, takes every class for self-improvement, and in his spare time, he has co-authored a book to help others called, “Love Conquers All”. During the entire 21 yrs he has been in prison, he has not received a single infraction for anything – rare for lifers.

    Taxpayers will pay well over a million dollars to keep Lenny for the rest of his life.

    His sentence is so bad that it ran on the front pg of The NY Times on July 4th, 2016?http://nyti.ms/29ik8sY

    Another article about Lenny, http://www.alternet.org/news-a…..rm-horizon

    Please learn more & sign Lenny Singleton’s petition at http://www.justice4lenny.org

  16. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  17. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  18. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  19. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  20. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  21. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  22. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  23. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

  24. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….

    …….. http://www.jobprofit9.com

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