Conservative Gerson Backs Shortening Mandatory Minimums, Swifter Penalties


“Mass incarceration is America's tragic success. It is effective and indiscriminate. It has increased safety, and it has deepened resentment,” writes conservative columnist Michael Gerson in the Washington Post. He quotes with approval another conservative writer, Eli Lehrer, who calls for “shortening, but not eliminating, mandatory minimum sentences.” Penalties for routine probation or parole violations would be swift but limited — days behind bars, not months or years.

Research suggests that the certainty of punishment in such cases matters more than its severity. Gerson notes that bipartisan measures that reduce reliance on incarceration have passed in Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. Crime is among the rare issues that have cooled as a culture-war conflict, he says, partly because of “the emergence of an odd ideological coalition that favors reform.”

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