There is reason to fear that whatever progress has been made in criminal justice reforms under President Obama could all be lost under Donald Trump, reports the Guardian. In his second term, Obama worked around a gridlocked Congress by using his executive power to push some limited reforms by reducing the use of solitary confinement, phasing out private prisons and scaling back federal drug prosecutions. But Obama’s executive orders can easily be reversed or abandoned by Trump, who ran a campaign openly hostile to progressive justice reform. Obama’s presidency has taken place amid national attention on the inefficiencies and inequities of the criminal justice system, and support for reform has begun to engender rare bipartisan support.
Yet, the US remains a justice outlier among the world’s developed countries, unmatched in terms of police violence, incarceration and draconian punishment. For the most part, Trump’s plans for criminal justice remain opaque. He did not make the matter a major campaign issue, aside from vague promises to be a “law and order candidate.” But he has been critical of several of Obama’s initiatives, including clemency for long-serving nonviolent drug offenders. “We don’t know what it’s going to mean, but the likelihood is we’re in a much worse place,” said Phillip Goff, president and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity. On the other hand, the Obama years have demonstrated just how little power the president has to reduce mass incarceration. Most of the criminal justice system lies far outside of presidential authority, in the hands of 50 states, 18,000 law enforcement departments and tens of thousands more local judicial jurisdictions.