Will States Pay Attention to ‘Law and Order’ Rhetoric?

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As some states press ahead on sentencing reform, will President Donald Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric discourage further action? This year, at least nine states will consider bills, including Arkansas, Georgia, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.“We feel like those are moving forward strongly,” says Adam Gelb of the Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project, “and are not getting any sense that the election has suggested to people at the state level that there’s any need to return to a more law-and-order type of posture,” Governing magazine reports.

Many states have reduced punishment for nonviolent offenders and rolled back mandatory minimum sentences. They’ve sought to reserve prison space for the worst criminals while stepping up re-entry programs for prisoners returning to their communities. “The states have been the proverbial labs of democracy and shown that it’s possible to reduce crime and incarceration at the same time,” Gelb says. Similar measures have not made much progress in Congress, but Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has reiterated his desire to move on the issue. Supporters of change say some key players on Trump’s transition team have signed reform pledges, such as Kenneth Blackwell, who headed the domestic policy transition. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general choice, has been hostile to some criminal justice reform efforts in the Senate.

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