ACLU Sees Hints of ‘Smart’ Justice Reforms in Obama’s Comments


The ACLU’s Blog of Rights sees signs that President Obama is leaning toward “smart criminal justice reform” in his second term. It cites his recent interview with Time, which named him Person of the Year. Asking about his criminal justice reform ideas, he replied that he takes a hard line against violent offenders. He added, “But there's a big chunk of that prison population that is involved in nonviolent crimes. And it is having a disabling effect on communities…I think we have to figure out what are we doing right to make sure that that downward trend in violence continues, but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process?” Asked whether he was referring to alternative sentencing, Obama said, “Potentially. You can't put a price on public safety; on the other hand, we're going to be in an era of fiscal constraint at the state, federal and local levels. It makes sense for us to just ask some tough questions.”

ACLU blogger Kara Dansky writes, “These are some stunning responses from a president who seemed reluctant to take on criminal justice reform during his first term. Specifically, the president raises the specter of the impact our criminal justice policies have had on vulnerable populations and raises the possibility of sentencing reform as a potential solution to some of our most challenging criminal justice challenges. If nothing else, he signals a willingness to ask some of the tough questions about criminal justice policy that most lawmakers have run from in recent decades. It is too early to tell exactly what President Obama has in mind for his second term. Maybe the president has given reformers, who have been banging the drum for prison and corrections reform for decades, something to look forward to.”

Comments are closed.