Republican sore loser power grabs corrode our democracy so badly because they have no limits
As its title suggests, this post focuses on some revolting developments perpetrated by the Republican Party in a number of states. But let’s start with something positive. The other day I was feeling pretty good while reading an article about newly elected progressive district attorneys who are reforming criminal justice practices down at the local level. They are working hard in places ranging from Brooklyn to Philadelphia to Kansas City to multiple large cities in Texas, and are counteracting the worst effects of our mass incarceration policies.
The article’s authors are Emily Bazelon, journalist and senior research fellow at Yale Law School, and Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, an organization that “brings together newly-elected local prosecutors as part of a network of leaders committed to promoting a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility.” Bazelon and Krinsky cited a number of steps these reform-minded prosecutors have taken, and laid out a list of ideas that, taken together, provide a blueprint for progressive prosecutors going forward. The full document is here (it is well worth a read), and the two offered a summary in the article:
Our recommendations begin with the premise that the level of punishment in the United States is neither necessary for public safety nor a pragmatic use of resources. Prosecutors can address this first by routing some low-level offenses out of the criminal justice system at the start. For the cases that remain, they can help make incarceration the exception and diverting people from prison the rule...Finally, prosecutors should recognize that lengthy mandatory sentences can be wasteful, since most people age out of the period when they’re likely to reoffend, and also don’t allow for the human capacity to change.
As prosecutors know, locking people up makes them more prone to committing offenses in the future. They can lose their earning capacity and housing, leaving them worse off, often to the point of desperation. And so the community is often better served by interventions like drug or mental-health treatment, or by restorative justice approaches, in which a person who has caused harm makes amends to the victim. In some cases, the best response is to do nothing.
There’s a lot of good stuff here. We’re talking about taking positive steps on an issue of vital importance. And maybe, just maybe, there will also be some more positive, if incomplete, steps taken at the federal level as well, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally announced that a bill to change sentencing practices will get a vote this month. The bill is likely to pass and become law. It actually has Trump’s support, and this analysis explains why that’s the case (short answer: he thinks it will help the economy). Taken all together, making our criminal justice system more just, not to mention more effective, appears to be on the horizon.
Then I remembered what’s happening in Wisconsin and Michigan.