Government & Politics

Voting for Criminal Justice Reform

Bipartisan agreement, but for very different reasons.

Lewis Morris · Apr. 27, 2016

The GOP is putting criminal justice reform on the list of items to focus on after the recent Republican National Committee spring meeting in Florida. Taking the lead of conservative states such as Texas, Alabama and Georgia, the national party crafted a resolution that would support efforts to lower mandatory minimum sentencing in nonviolent cases and allow well-behaved inmates to earn time off their prison terms.

Bipartisan legislation in the House and Senate was introduced last year, but there has been some back and forth over whether the bill is too soft on certain types of crime.

Regardless of the debate over how crimes should be treated on the federal level, many advocates for reform on both the Left and Right believe that mandatory minimum sentencing may have done more harm than good. “Minimum mandatory penalties are not always bad,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said last October. “The problem is that some of them impose sentences that are plainly excessive in relation to the behavior they are trying to punish.”

Mark Holden, an attorney for Koch Industries, argues that Republicans need to position themselves to own the criminal justice reform issue. “The RNC position makes it clear that Republicans can and should continue to lead on this critically important issue,” Holden said in a statement. “The federal legislation is based on the same reforms that have worked so well in the states to reduce crime rates and safely reduce incarceration rates.”

Let’s not forget that reducing the prison population will also reduce the government spending required to run those prisons.

Criminal justice reform is one of those rare instances when Republicans and Democrats can actually agree on the basics of a plan. The trouble is Democrats aren’t motivated by the same concerns, and thus they have alternative ends. Leftists will pay lip service to reducing recidivism and public safety and so forth, but what they are really after is votes.

Democrats are looking to loosen up the prison population because they want to turn ex-cons into voters. And, like it or not, ex-cons tend to vote Democrat.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe clearly demonstrated this when unilaterally restoring voting rights for 200,000 felons in his swing state — something he didn’t have the constitutional authority to do. McAuliffe has always been a bagman for the Clintons, and he wants Hillary to win Virginia.

Obama’s commutation of a few dozen prison sentences for drug offenders could be just a primer for a wave of pardons and commutations in the days before he leaves office, putting enough new voters in circulation to ensure his legacy and put more Democrats in office. Indeed, a few commutations would pale in comparison to his release last year of thousands of “nonviolent” federal prisoners.

For Democrats, it’s not just about adding a few voters to the rolls, either. Obama recently praised the concept of mandatory voting in Australia, suggesting that the United States might want to try something similar. To do this, though, you might need an ID to vote, which is an abomination to Democrats.

An informed voting public is necessary to the life and longevity of a republic. One of the ways to ensure that voters are informed is to instill a voting process that requires individuals to actively register and take part in civic debate. What is earned is always more appreciated than what is simply given.

The “progressive” ideal is to give everyone the vote regardless of any circumstance because they know that the masses can be easily swayed by smooth talkers and endless governments gifts. Giving freedom to felons followed by giving them the right to vote without earning it (never mind requiring the vote) is just one example of such a government gift. Republicans need to ensure that prison reform takes place for the right reasons, not to pad the Democrats’ voter rolls.

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