Right wing push for criminal justice system reform: WTF?

Recent news of republican movement towards “reform” of the criminal justice system has me completely baffled. The Donald is on board, and various republican coalitions are eager to pursue the notion. On Face the Nation this morning, they opined that one of Jerrod Kushner’s pet projects was CJS reform! It was noted that his efforts toward such, have actually interfered with other republican plans for reform “that they have been working on for YEARS.” This has gathered my attention…and it worries me.

I am astounded by (what for me at least, is) this revelation, and must admit I’m woefully short on facts… but on the surface, this seems as improbable as if tomorrow, republicans came out in favor of single payer Medicare for all. One concern: (and the reason I scare-quoted “reform” above) what is* actually meant by reform* from a republican perspective?

Like you, I keep waiting for the various shoes to drop. Once the private prison money guys start making noise, and the “law and order:rolleyes:” crowd, I would expect to see pressure for rollbacks.

Or, perhaps reform means new construction of larger, privately operated prisons… with plenty of room for new customers? This would address both interests you mention.

They’ll eliminate all laws covering white collar crime.

One thing’s for certain, decriminalization of marijuana is not on the table with the Republicans.

Text of the Bill in question as presented (VERY long):

PDF Summary from the committee: Short (2 page) version. Longer (8 page) version.
Various reports on the issue:



And the position of at least one of the Republican supporters:
https://www.lee.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/11/time-for-senate-to-act-on-criminal-justice-reform

ISTM we have here a situation where everyone’s so incredulous that there may be bipartisan AND Presidential agreement, that everybody’s holding back because “there’s got to be a catch”.

So, in your opinion, what are the “catches”?

Honestly, I can’t see republicans supporting anything that will not** fuck working class people**. Sorry, I’m a cynic based upon 45 years of experience… What am I missing here? This just does not pass the “smell” test.

I think the Republican party is changing rapidly - so fast it’ll make your head spin. The Democratic Party is also changing; but I’m still not particularly in love with either party at the moment. The big political shift that’s going on is that Republicans are squaring their sites on working class voters. This means addressing all the problems that effects all races of lower middle and middle middle class voters. The Democrats are going to focus more on aspirational and intellectual voters.

I’ve said it many times, the Democrats will start losing a significant portion of black voters. I will point to this thread when it happens in the next 4 - 6 years.

Hell if I know,n gogogophers, I’m more curious as to what is the basis upon which everyone is saying they have the 60 votes in hand while Mitch seems to be less than 100% bigly on board.

From the *text *of the presented bill, it seems like it is very properly titled the “First Steps Act” as it only covers a *very *limited set of improvements about some specific issues, such as *slightly *reducing the rate of prolonged incarceration through such things as capping the maximum “three strikes” sentence and being more specific on the type of crime that qualifies for that, being more humane about terminal immates, putting limits to solitary for juveniles, and ordering a series of studies as to future programs to prevent recidivism and for prerelease risk evaluation. No discussion of changes in for-profit prison management, of reform of Asset Forfeiture (being left to SCOTUS to decide upon).

However, do bear in mind in the face of this, that until and unless there ARE the votes to bring it down to the floor, there remains the possibility of it being subject to amendments and to the attachment of riders in exchange for obtaining such votes, and that usually is where you and I get it up the uncomfortable entry point.
Sticking only to the presented text, I could see some concern on the left about the explicit inclusion of “faith-based” as a form of antirecidivism program, or about expanded markets for prison labor or insofar as some of the more favorable provisions NOT being retroactive to people convicted and sentenced under the more stringent prior law; while on the right of course there will be concern about being attacked from the* further-right* about any easing in punitive measures. Plus I’m sure on both sides there will be questions as to just what will be the criteria to calculate “good time” compliance in rehab programs and to grant rewards and incentives for participating; as well as concern that legislators may say “well, check the box, we’ve adressed CJ reform” and decide they need go no further.

Probably they actually want more Kafka-esque punishments rather than less, and when Dems don’t agree to it the GOP will cry that Dems want more criminals running around free.

Admittedly I have not read the proposed reform (not gonna waste my time when 45 will change his mind next week or it won’t pass Congress etc) I will seriously have to see what actually happens before believing that the GOP would actually try to make the criminal justice system even slightly more fair/reasonable/lenient.

How is criminal justice reform going to play with the GOP’s non-POC base? Probably a lot of white GOP voters who don’t want the government to be “soft” on crime.

I think that is what the Republican party is doing. They’ve been backed into a corner on this by it being not only popular but important to voters and backed by the stupid bull they helped elect. Doing something will let them tick the box, let them campaign on having done justice reform and they hope that will let enough voters go “well it wasn’t perfect, but they worked on it, and I like the republicans better, so …”.

You’re missing the bipartisan things the current congress has gotten done. They just don’t get much traction in the current environment.

in the last week, Congress passed a bill to legalize hemp growth. Mitch McConnell sponsored a bill to do that last summer.

Then there’s the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018

Several bills related to stopping human trafficking also became law last year with broad bipartisan support.

The Know the Lowest Price Act prevents insurers and middlemen from restricting pharmacists’ ability to provide accurate pricing information about prescription drugs. It became law a couple months ago.

Since you referenced the last 45 year period, you seem to be missing the legislative history of the Earned Income Tax Credit in your assessment as well. It’s one of the major pieces of our social safety net for the working poor. It was first implemented under Ford and expanded under Reagan with broad bipartisan support. My google-fu is failing me for a cite on the current Congress’ big action in support. (IIRC it was jammed into an omnibus budget bill making it harder to sort out from the rest.) Important provisions of the EITC were set to expire in 2017. The GOP dominated Congress could have literally cut support for the working poor by simply doing nothing. The expiring provisions were were made permanent.

I suspect you’ve got some confirmation bias mixed with the fact that bipartisan legislation doesn’t get much traction in the news cycle. If there’s nothing to fight about most of us don’t hear about it. When there is something to fight over, that overshadows the less controversial pieces.

My suspicion, based on what conservatives have been doing for the last thirty years, is that this is part of an ongoing effort to create a two-tiered legal system in the United States. One hardcore legal system for most people and a soft legal system for the people who are rich and influential enough to have access to it.

The goal is to have a legal system where some people are shot by the police or imprisoned for life for committing minor non-violent crimes. But this same system will have the possibility that somebody can commit murder or rape or steal a billion dollars and get sentenced to two years of probation or a few weekends of community service. Of course, the latter options will not be available to most people.

This situation isn’t an ongoing effort or a goal, it already exists. Look at the negligible penalties imposed on Jeffrey Epstein, a repeat sexual predator with a gigantic mountain of evidence against him. Being a billionaire is literally a get out of jail free card, or the closest thing to it that exists.

I believe that that this is old rhetoric that the current Republican Party is steering away from. Same thing with war on drugs - only time will tell if these things are old rhetoric that will die completely in the not too distant future or not. It’s a fairly big shift.

For the record, I agree with you, Mr. Nylock, that we are going to see minorities turn to the GOP in greater numbers than before. I base this on two things. One, the prevailing wisdom among the Democrats seems to be that the Republican Party basically equals white America trying to cling to old parochial values in the face of the “impending doom” of demographics turning against them…and the prevailing wisdom always winds up being wrong. Whatever most people think is going to happen, the opposite is what’s actually going to happen. Two, there’s an incentive for minorities to join the ranks of the Trump GOP: they get to be the big fish in a small pond. Their newfound political compatriots will go out of their way to make them feel special, whereas if they fell in with the left, it would just be business as usual.

Oh, and also, a lot of black and Hispanic voters are much more parochial than people realize…many of them will look at the left and see a bewildering miasma of intersectionality and a minefield of social justice purity tests, whereas they could jump ship to the Republicans and have everyone kiss their ass for being the token minority member. But eventually there will be enough of them that they won’t be “token” anymore, there will actually be a steady stream of minority defectors from the left.

The Republican party is interested in sentencing reform because opioid crimes fall heavily on its poor white rural base. There is no principle at work here, it’s simply transactional.

Or, perhaps, they will look at the existing GOP and continue to think “why would I vote for these racists? What have they done for me lately?”

The flip side of your argument is “the NRA is going to become anti-gun because liberals haven’t been able to ban guns, so they will join up to vote out Wayne LaPierre.” Does that seem likely?

Law and order is a big catchphrase to the conservative crowd. However, they tend to mostly be happy with the current system. So I think this is largely an attempt at distraction from the illegal stuff Trump and co are up to.

As for the claim they’ve been working on it for years: remember that the Obamacare plan was a Republican one. There was a time when Republicans cared more about bipartisanship, proposing lesser versions to combat progressive plans, rather than declaring them all to be enemies.

Throw in the big bipartisan shift due to the Democrats taking power in the House soon (without a Democratic president to blame things on), and it makes sense they might pull this stuff out again.