VA GOP Candidate’s Views on Crime Cited as “Fundamental Shift” on Justice


Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican running for governor, championed the innocence of a man who was wrongfully convicted. The Washington Post calls it a sign of the evolution in his views on crime and punishment that also leads him to argue that a frugal government should be more discerning about whom it puts behind bars. “There is an expectation that the generic Republican position is tough on crime,” Cuccinelli said. “But even that has budget limits, particularly on the prison side.” Amid fiscal problems caused in part by massive prison populations and research showing mass incarceration causes social harm, some leading conservatives have been pushing for reforms. A generation ago, Republicans savaged Democrats as soft on crime, until President Bill Clinton joined the GOP in a crackdown that continued even as the violent crime rate plummeted to historic lows. “This is a fundamental shift in how we see criminal justice,” said University of Pittsburgh law Prof. David Harris. “There is a growing awareness of the fiscal and social costs of our great experiment in mass incarceration, and the balance has shifted from trying to look unrelentingly tough to asking what works best.” In a 1994 Gallup poll, 52 percent of Americans called crime the nation's most pressing problem. Last month, that number was 2 percent.

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