Three Justice Areas Where Trump Could Advocate Reform

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Vikrant Reddy of the Charles Koch Institute suggests three justice reforms that may be pursued by the Donald Trump administration. Writing for The Marshall Project, Reddy mentions overcriminalization, performance-incentive funding, and heroin addiction. There are 5,000 obscure federal crimes, such as shipping lobster in plastic rather than cardboard boxes, that are more appropriately treated as administrative or regulatory matters, he says. The mens rea or “state of mind” portions of many criminal statutes (which specify whether the conduct must be purposeful, knowing, reckless, or negligent) often are left out when laws are drafted. Reversing this “overcriminalization” has long been a priority for conservatives and prominent progressive voices.

A widely-admired strategies for improving criminal justice outcomes is performance-incentive funding (PIF). The idea is that governments should fund programs, not merely on the number of people incarcerated. A government that contracts for lower recidivism rates and increased restitution payments to victims is more likely to find that its prisons are encouraging education and job training behind bars, Reddy says. Donald Trump performed unusually well in the election in placess ravaged by heroin abuse. He seemed to understand that he owes it to these voters—his base—to take the issue seriously. His administration will likely pursue a law enforcement solution that attacks the “supply side” of the heroin problem. There is also a “demand side,” and Reddy believes that Trump must treat this side of the problem with equal urgency. This means redirecting scarce resources from incarceration to less costly and more effective diversion programs that treat addiction. Trump’s advisors have surely noticed that attitudes towards drug policy appear to be changing. On election night, four states where Trump prevailed—Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota—voted to legalize medical marijuana. A fifth state that Trump carried, Oklahoma, voted to reclassify several drug possession felonies as misdemeanors.

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