† Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.
Conservative Criminal Justice Reform, A Look Through the Distorted Fun House Mirror
by nancy a heitzeg, occasionally aided and abetted by Kay Whitlock
This week was awash in news of “criminal justice reform”. Some of these news items sparked real hope: efforts on the part of NY Governor Cuomo to budget for college classes for inmates, escalated calls for an end to mandatory minimums and solitary confinement, and news that President Obama is planning to extend pardons to “hundreds, if not thousands” of non-violent offenders before he leaves office.
Occasionally billed as a “bipartisan” issue, the main thrust of most coverage, however, was on “conservative calls for criminal justice reform”. The Conservative Political Action Conference with Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Grover Norquist, highlighted the issue, Chris Christie weighs in, and now even the Koch Brothers get in on the action with a panel billed as “uniting left and right” and the “GOP’s best hope to reach minority voters”.
What has long been an under-current of right-wing policy advocacy is now emerging as a centerpiece of the upcoming 2014 and 2016 election seasons. The immediate image is of a kinder gentler non-obstructionist GOP who will continue to combat big government, reduce mass incarceration, and save taxpayers even $$$. A “reasonable” approach that capitalizes on a public opinion that increasingly rejects the War on Drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent offenders. An approach that presents Red States as the leaders in a reform movement that is “smart on crime”.
Look again. It is a view from a distorting Fun House Mirror, another carnival sideshow that masks the reality of the “Right on Crime” agenda, which is most simply, more privatization. Privatization ensures that any possibility for public accountability vanishes. Further privatization of criminal justice serves to pave the way for expanded privatization of other public programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, education, food and nutrition assistance, and so on. Expect more of this in the upcoming months and years ahead.
Criminal InJustice has been exposing the under-lying agenda of the conservative calls for “reform” for quite some time. We will continue to do so in more detail. For now, please, if you can, revisit:
- Faith, Profit and Prisons
- Confidence Men & “Prison Reform”
- Con Artists, Profit and Community Corrections
- Smoke and Mirrors?
We hope you will continue to ask the hard questions with us as calls for conservative criminal justice reform intensify.