Conservative Levin’s ‘Hopeful Signs’ of Trump Justice Reform

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“Trumpism” is consistent with the “deal” that a smaller, more effective criminal justice system represents for the American people: better public safety for lower costs while holding offenders accountable, Marc Levin of Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation writes for The Marshall Project. Levin believes there are many hopeful signs that the new administration could be active on the issue. Vice President Mike Pence, who championed rehabilitation initiatives as governor of Indiana, and key figures such as Ben Carson and Reince Priebus have gone on the record in support of criminal justice reforms. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who faced the harrowing experience of seeing his father incarcerated, has supported organizations like the Aleph Institute that works to ensure Jewish prisoners can see a rabbi, and also advocates for sentencing reform.

The Trump administration presents a major opportunity to break the criminal justice reform logjam in Congress, adds Levin. Perhaps the biggest reason the Sentencing and Corrections Reform Act got bottlenecked is the fight over whether a “mens rea” provision to insure that intent to commit a crime be proved in every case should be included,. Many Republicans view it as essential but the Obama administration obstructed it on grounds that it would make it harder to prosecute white-collar crimes. In truth, the requirement of a culpable mental state is important no matter the color of the defendant’s collar, Levin says. He adds that “other federal criminal justice reform priorities should include civil asset forfeiture reform, reining in mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses, and earned time for most inmates who complete programs proven to reduce recidivism.”

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