Republicans, Switching On Criminal Sentencing, Cite Society “Pendulum”


The Republicans, once the party of lock 'em up, have morphed into the party of let 'em out, as some in the GOP say they've outpaced President Obama when it comes to overhauling a prison sentencing system that mandates too much time for nonviolent crimes, McClatchy Newspapers reports. As Obama highlighted his efforts to revamp criminal sentencing, including a visit yesterday to a federal prison in Oklahoma, congressional Republicans were teaming with Democrats on bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate that they hope to pass this year.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), joined the push yesterday, saying he'd bring a bipartisan prison sentencing overhaul bill to a vote because there are people incarcerated “under what I'll call flimsy reasons.” For Republicans, the drive to reduce sentences for nonviolent, first-time and low-level offenders is an about-face. Long considered the party of law and order, Republicans are embracing alternatives to mandatory minimum terms that became the political rage in the 1980s and 1990s to quell a crack cocaine epidemic. “Everything in society, there's a pendulum. There was a lawlessness that was happening in the streets. You saw it in New York, what (Mayor) Rudy Giuliani had to do to make sure he started enforcing small things,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), co-chair of the Congressional Criminal Justice and Public Safety Caucus. “But because we've been able to bring back that law and order, then you can look at the cost to society and you can look at some of the ways that we can actually be more effective in our justice system.”

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