The Democratic Party platform, released yesterday, illustrates the party’s historic differences with the Republicans on criminal justice issues.
While the GOP stressed the need for tough prison sentences, the Democrats favored limited gun control and new government spending, highlighting proposed “new funding that will help keep cops on the street and support our police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians.”
While the Republicans oppose new gun control, the Democrats called for “an honest, open national conversation about firearms.”
Democrats want to ” focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system,” and enactment of “commonsense improvements—like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole—so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few.”
The Democrats took a direct shot at their opponents, saying that Republicans and presidential candidate Mitt Romney “have opposed and even ridiculed these proposals, but we believe we should support our first responders.”
The platform added: “We support efforts to ensure our courageous police officers and first responders are equipped with the best technology, equipment, and innovative strategies to prevent and fight crimes.”
Cycle of Violence
Elaborating on their backing of more police officers, the Democrats contend that it can “end the dangerous cycle of violence, especially youth violence, by continuing to invest in proven community-based law enforcement programs such as the Community Oriented Policing Services program.”
Both parties agree on prisoner rehabilitation to reduce recidivism, with President Barack Obama’s administration boasting of its creating the Federal Interagency Reentry Council in 2011 to deal with prisoner re-entry. (The Republican administration of George W. Bush initiated the federal Second Chance Act on that subject.)
The Democrats pledge to “fight inequalities in our criminal justice system,” backing the death penalty but saying it “must not be arbitrary.”
The platform calls for DNA testing “in all appropriate circumstances,” and says defendants should have effective assistance of counsel. Democrats cited their support of the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing racial disparities in sentencing for drug crimes.
Democrats made a point of backing work by government at all levels to “combat and prevent drug crime and drug and alcohol abuse,” and cited increased spending for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program over the last four years.
Ted Gest is President of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington-based contributing editor of The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.