Saturday, January 24, 2009

Law Enforcement and Corrections: A Message from the New Administration

The new White House website is attracting some attraction (some of it from bloggers comparing it to the previous version which, in all fairness, was made eight years ago). Given Jonathan Simon's statement, that no American politician has ever gotten elected on a platform of being soft on crime, it is interesting to state a few things about the new administration's criminal justice policy.

First, the list of topics on the agenda does not seem to include crime control or law enforcement in any particularly visible way.

Second, these issues have been located under "civil rights".

Third, the priorities seem to have shifted toward rehabilitation and re-entry, at least on paper. An excerpt from the agenda page:

  • End Racial Profiling: President Obama and Vice President Biden will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
  • Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: President Obama and Vice President Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
  • Eliminate Sentencing Disparities: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
  • Expand Use of Drug Courts: President Obama and Vice President Biden will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
How much these national priorities will be reflected in California in the wake of the failed Prop 5? It may well be that the tendency to release prisoners and eliminate parole, supported by Governor Schwarzenegger as a budgetary emergency measure, may actually reflect some of these priorities.

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