April 28, 2015
By Jacob Sullum
Yesterday the Brennan Center for Justice published an essay collection that highlights both the emerging bipartisan consensus in favor of criminal justice reform and the vacuousness of some politicians who claim to support that cause. The book, titled Solutions: American Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice, features worthy and substantive contributions from, among others, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), not to mention nonpoliticians such as UCLA criminologist Mark Kleiman and Marc Levin, founder of Right on Crime. Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is not exactly thoughtful on the subject of, say, marijuana legalization, has some interesting things to say about bail reform. And then there are former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who either support policies that contribute to overincarceration and excessive punishment, fail to acknowledge their past support for such policies, or have nothing specific to say about how to correct those policies.
As president, Bill Clinton helped create a situation in which, as then-Attorney General Eric Holder put it in 2013, "too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason." The Clinton administration bragged about supporting "tougher penalties" (including a federal "three strikes" law and longer sentences for meth-related crimes), building more prisons, opposing parole, putting more cops on the street, implementing "a comprehensive anti-drug strategy," and expanding the federal death penalty. This is the full extent of the mea culpa that Clinton offers in the preface to the Brennan Center's book:
By 1994, violent crime had tripled in years. Our communities were under assault. We acted to address a genuine national crisis. But much has changed since then. It's time to take a clear-eyed look at what worked, what didn't, and what produced unintended, long-lasting consequences…
Read the full article at Reason.com.