Monday, March 7, 2016

Criminal Justice Issues & Election 2016

By Professor Laurie Levenson

Although there are critical issues facing our criminal justice system today, precious little has been said by this election’s Presidential candidates. However, if one checks their websites, important differences among the candidates emerge.

Republican Candidates

On the Republican side, Donald Trump advocates in favor of mandatory minimums, racial profiling (especially of Muslims and Mexicans), the death penalty, and a border wall to stop illegal immigration. He also has stated that he would not ban assault weapons and that the government “has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.” Otherwise, Trump lists very few details as to how he would tackle the challenges facing our criminal justice system.

Ted Cruz has stated that he wants more discretion for judges with regard to the imposition of mandatory minimums and that he would decriminalize drugs and other non-violent crimes. Like Trump, Cruz supports Second Amendment rights and including additional barriers to stop illegal immigration.

Marco Rubio advocates for more state control of criminal cases, the abolition of civil forfeiture, heightened intent standards for white collar crime prosecutions, and a simplified sentencing approach. He has stated that Congress must “rein in out-of-control regulatory agencies.” He has also repeated that it is “estimated that the average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day.” Cruz calls this state of affairs intolerable and calls for reforms to end selective enforcement.

Finally, John Kasich has called for juvenile justice reform and better education to reduce recidivism. He would give police Naxalone to provide emergency treatment to heroin addicts. Kasich believes that the criminal justice system must deal with the mentally ill, especially when it comes to the problem of mass shootings. He has called Trump’s proposal to deport 11 million illegal immigrants “silly” and Kasich would allow law-abiding immigrants to stay in the United States.

Democratic Candidates

Hillary Clinton supports police use of body cameras. She also supports the death penalty, but with restrictions. She has pushed for increased Amber alerts and stricter sentencing for hate and sex crimes. She is against private prisons and mandatory minimums. Clinton calls for limitations on the sale of guns and increased law enforcement training to deal with the issue of racial bias. Finally, she would let stand President Obama’s executive action regarding immigrants.

Bernie Sanders has noted repeatedly that blacks are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. He has said he wants to address the school-to-prison pipeline and more reentry programs and jobs to reduce the incarceration rate. He does not support mandatory minimums or

private prisons. Overall, he believes that to reduce America’s incarceration rate, we must address America’s underlying social problems.

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