Criminal Justice Reform Is About Justice, Not Leniency

A mountain of bad policy has resulted from a convenient political accusation. Calling someone "soft on crime" has been a way to stifle political debate and ignore logic for decades. No politician, liberal or conservative, could long withstand a reputation for being soft on crime. The result of that has been an incarceration rate unprecedented in human history, the destruction of countless lives and a cost to taxpayers that is nothing short of staggering. It is time to recognize the accusation of being soft on crime for what it is, wrongheaded fear-mongering.

Criminal justice reform is about protecting our society in a fair, predictable and beneficial manner. The result of reform is not the release of hardened criminals onto an unsuspecting public. The idea is to create an effective, humane and safe environment for everyone. Criminal justice reform should make things easier for law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and people accused of crimes. It is not one-sided and it has nothing to do with being soft on crime.

It has been demonstrated repeatedly that, under current criminal laws, it is possible to turn almost anyone into a felon. Basically, anyone who draws the attention of police and prosecutors can have their property and freedom taken with little recourse. That climate has done little to reduce crime or protect the public. It has made it possible to selectively target certain groups and incarcerate them at a shocking rate.

The consequences of a conviction in the United States are too high to tolerate the flaws in our current system. The criminal justice system comes as a shock to almost everyone when first introduced to it. Few people imagine how easy it is for an innocent person to be jailed, potentially for years. Without real and substantial reform, injustice will continue to thrive and the cost to our society will grow. Remember that the next time you hear someone suggest that a candidate is soft on crime.


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