Nkechi Taifa’s Convener’s Corner,
March 14, 2017
My reflection: From his 1980s–style “tough on crime” and “law and order” bombast, his selection of the controversial Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, and his criminal punishment-focused Executive Orders, the handwriting is on the wall that we will likely see a return to the flawed policies of the past which resulted in the current era of mass incarceration. The best case scenario would be the passage without delay of bipartisan sentencing reform legislation ripe from the last Congress. Among the worst scenarios would be such legislation lit up like a Christmas tree weighted down with poison ornaments such as mandatory sentences, aggressive policing measures, and death penalties. Criminal justice policy reform at the federal level remains pertinent, despite an Administration and Congress seemingly hostile to reform. It is incumbent that the progressive voice in federal criminal justice is principled, valued and strong, that we protect the gains previously made, and engage in defensive strategies that make it more difficult for harmful policies to pass.
*See excerpts from my reflection quoted in the Prison Policy Initiative’s annual report on U.S. prison populations, which offers a reality check on the administration’s fear-loaded rhetoric on rising violent crime. The number of incarcerated persons in the U.S. remains unchanged at 2.3 million–a figure the authors say should make the feds think about how to encourage states to reduce that number instead of filling more prison cells. http://thecrimereport.org/2017/03/14/at-critical-moment-under-trumpreport-gives-hard-facts-on-incarceration/
Nkechi Taifa is the convener of the Justice Roundtable. An expert in the field of criminal justice, she is the Advocacy Director for Criminal Justice for the Open Society Foundations and Open Society Policy Center.