Government & Politics

Obama’s Prison Reform: More Votes for Democrats

The good, the bad and the racial pandering.

Paul Albaugh · Jul. 16, 2015

On the heels of commuting the sentences of 46 drug offenders on Monday, Barack Obama is pushing for sweeping reforms for the U.S prison system. During a speech before the NAACP on Tuesday, he outlined his three-pronged approach, stating that reform needs to happen “in the community, the courtroom and in the cell block.” And today he’ll become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. The bad news is he won’t be staying there.

At the community level, Obama proposes diverting money saved through prison reform to education. If the money were to go to colleges, high schools or perhaps even middle schools, there might be some merit to his proposition. But he and the educrats in Washington want the money to be invested in pre-kindergarten, allegedly so crime can be stopped before it starts.

Last we checked, not many toddlers were thinking about using drugs, or committing other non-violent crimes. Humor aside, “Head Start,” the model for universal pre-k, has been shown to have virtually no benefit. Besides, is it really better to leave it up to the government rather than parents to teach their kids right and wrong? Certainly not, but Obama and his fellow progressives would like nothing more than to indoctrinate children at an even earlier age.

As for reforming prisons via the courtroom, Obama wants Congress to pass legislation this year that would lower long mandatory minimum sentences or get rid of them entirely. Additionally, he wants to invest in “prison alternatives, such as drug court programs and probation courts.” Reform in this area has the backing of many conservatives who believe that non-violent criminals such as drug users would be better off going through rehab programs than serving countless years in prison.

For reforming the cellblock, Obama wants to address the alleged overuse of solitary confinement, overcrowded prisons and gangs. According to The Hill, Obama also supports “banning a box on job applications for convicted felons and said those who have served time and paid their debts to society ‘should be able to vote.’” Ah, there it is — voting.

In other words, let’s make it illegal for businesses to not hire someone because they have checked a box indicating they are a felon. That might be discrimination. But let’s make it perfectly legal for that same person to be able to check the ballot box. Something of a double standard there, but what else can we expect from the minister of fairness? Just look at his track record of pushing policies that guarantee more votes for progressives.

The thing is, there’s actually plenty of bipartisan support in Congress for prison reform. On the same day Obama spoke to the NAACP, a Senate panel discussed ways to overhaul the criminal system, and conservative senators like Mike Lee, Rand Paul and John Cornyn are leading the charge.

According to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, which hosted the panel, there are currently 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons, which is a 500% increase over the last 30 years. In addition, more than 60% of those incarcerated for nonviolent crimes are black and Hispanic men.

This may seem like a disproportionate number. According to Obama it proves our justice system is “not as fair as it should be.” Are there people behind bars that perhaps shouldn’t be? Sure, from all ethnicities. Are there people behind bars that are serving sentences that don’t match the crime they committed? Sure, from all ethnicities. Yet Obama claims more blacks and Hispanics than whites in prison can be due only to racism.

There may be some cases where this is true. However, he fails to mention in his narrative that many imprisoned blacks and Hispanics come from high-crime cities. Many come from broken homes, grow up on urban poverty plantations run by Democrats and turn to drugs and other crimes, both violent and nonviolent, because that is what they know.

By the way, what message is Obama sending to those breaking the current laws, even nonviolently? That they have the hope of getting out of jail early? If he commuted the sentences of these 46 individuals on Monday because there were errors in their sentencing, or they had been mistreated by a prosecutor, then his use of the presidential power of clemency may be understood. But that wasn’t the case; it was simply another abuse of power.

As Paul Robinson of The Wall Street Journal notes:

“Using clemency to override existing policy on criminal sentences sets a dangerous precedent. Imagine a president who uses clemency to mitigate the sentences of nonviolent white-collar criminals like Bernie Madoff, or police officers who use deadly force in the line of duty, or for defendants in stand-your-ground cases, or for those who shoot abortion doctors as a claimed ‘act of conscience.’ Will each new president drop or revise the clemency criteria of his predecessor, and substitute his own? This would short-circuit the checks and balances of our constitutional separation of powers and give unrestricted lawmaking power to the president.”

Do our prisons need reform? Absolutely, but not for all the reasons Obama puts forth. Furthermore, it’s appalling that this president has the time to not only commute the sentences of 46 drug offenders but to personally write them letters, yet he can’t be bothered to even mention the name of Kathryn Steinle, who was murdered by a repeatedly deported illegal alien, much less spend a few minutes writing a letter of condolence to her family. Oh wait, he supports sanctuary cities, which allow illegal immigrants to go unchecked. And what about the American hostages in Iran who are still there following Obama’s terrible deal? Politics trumped reason. And that’s what worries us about his ideas for prison reform.

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