Schwarzenegger: End Of Demagoguery On Crime?


By embracing rehabilitation for felons, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is veering sharply from the law-and-order mantra of his Republican Party, says the Los Angeles Times. The governor has emphasized education, job training, drug treatment, and counseling for inmates to improve the odds that they would get out and go straight. He has freed 83 murderers who had done their time and won the endorsement of the parole board. Schwarzenegger’s turn to rehabilitation takes him into territory where few California politicians – Republican or Democrat – have recently trod. “It’s amazing to see,” said political scientist Stuart Scheingold, an author of two books on the politics of crime. “I think it’s further evidence that the era of political demagoguery on crime may be ending.”

Though some victims’ groups are wary, no opponent will cal the governor a “girlie man” on crime. “It’s like Nixon going to China,” said Martin Kaplan of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. “If anybody has a baseline reputation as being a tough guy, it’s Conan or the Terminator. So the charge that he’s soft on crime is not likely to stick.” Schwarzenegger has made clear that he supports stiff criminal sentences. Last year, his opposition to Proposition 66, which would have relaxed the three-strikes law, was decisive in killing the measure. “I think it’s a hard sell,” said Garry South, political advisor to former Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat who advocated punitive prison and parole policies. “I just don’t think taxpayers want to see billions of dollars spent on teaching violent criminals how to do macrame and become auto mechanics.”


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