January 27, 2016

WE WERE POISED FOR REAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM, BUT “BLACK LIVES MATTER” POISONED THE WELL: Resistance Mounts to Prison Reform.

Momentum for prison reform, driven by a bipartisan coalition of civil rights oriented Democrats and small government Republicans, has been building for years. The issue of over-incarceration is in the public consciousness like never before, state prison populations are falling, and the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill overhauling federal sentencing with support from heavyweights on both sides of the aisle. But we are now seeing some signs that the “prison reform moment” may be on hold—or at least, that the dissenters will be more vocal than they were last year or the year before. . . .

The failure of the sentencing reform bill to sail through the Senate is partly a story about election year politics—as Michelle Cottle explained in the Atlantic, one reason the bill has yet to come to the floor is that New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte is facing a tight re-election race in New Hampshire, a state with an acute opioid epidemic magnified in the media by its early presidential primary. But it also points to deeper trends: In particular, the rise of the Jacksonian wing of the Republican Party, and the retreat of the Jeffersonians. For a few years during the Obama presidency, it appeared that Jeffersonians like Rand Paul, who supported reining in the NSA, softening the criminal justice system, and scaling back the war on terror, represented the future of the GOP. But the Jeffersonian moment is over, and the nationalist Jacksonians have come roaring back. Crime, terror, immigration, and general law-and-order toughness is Andrew Jackson’s bread-and-butter. It’s no surprise that the Jacksonian revival would frustrate criminal justice reform efforts, at least temporarily.

Also all the rioting, traffic-blocking, name-calling, death-threatening nonsense. I don’t think that Black Lives Matter’s well-poisoning was accidental, either.

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