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Mass Incarceration, the Presidential Race and the Politics of Respectability

December 22, 2015
While criminal justice reform has been an essential mainstay of candidates' talking points this election season, many of the candidates are newcomers to the reform camp.

Criminal justice policy has been an important aspect of candidates’ talking points on the campaign trail for the 2016 presidential race, and overall, most candidates are calling for reform, not increasing incarceration, writes James Kilgore in Truthout.

This election cycle, reducing prison populations and slashing corrections budgets have become part of the essential mantra for most presidential candidates. As Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, put it, “The threat of someone waging a ‘tough on crime’ campaign as their calling card is … very much diminished from what we might have seen 20 years ago.”

Kilgore documents the Democratic and Republican candidates’ positions today and earlier in their political careers, noting that while most of the candidates are recent arrivals to the criminal justice reform camp, Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul are members who at least predate the current campaign. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, “has a long history on criminal legal issues, though hardly one of reform.”

From Ted Cruz to Hillary Clinton, from Rand Paul to Bernie Sanders, the 2016 candidates represent a very different scenario for the issue of mass incarceration than the 2012 campaign, when it was totally off the radar. However, more important than the details of shifting positions and personal epiphanies are the reasons behind this sudden interest in criminal justice – and whether it will contribute to meaningful change.


Read the full article on Truthout.

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