Overcriminalization is not Conservative: Why Republican Senators Should Support S. 2123

 

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S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA), is inherently conservative because it benefits Americans while significantly reducing federal spending. The current changes to SRCA examined in the Senate aim to address the concerns of some legislators while keeping the substantive reforms to the nation’s broken justice system. If nothing is done, the price of maintaining a sufficient justice system will become far too costly.

Senate support originates from the SRCA sponsor, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and it is cosponsored by notable senators such as John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY).

SRCA is not a revolutionary new approach to the justice system but rather a measured application of years of reform experience onto the federal prison system. Thanks to months of education and study, conservative stalwarts like Senators Grassley and Lee lead efforts to push the issue. This is a major development after the demagoguery and falsehoods peddled by actors who neglect to offer their own proposals.

The new changes would remove any possibility that serious violent criminals will see any sentencing relief.

Costs

The criminal justice system in its current state is extremely costly to the United States budget. According to the Justice Department’s Inspector General, the Bureau of Prison’s budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 totaled $6.9 billion and represented 25 percent of the DOJ’s discretionary budget.

Comparatively, the BOP’s FY 2000 budget is only $3.8 billion and 18 percent of the DOJ’s discretionary budget. This doubled monetary increase damages the DOJ by preventing it from participating in other critical law enforcement programs.

Plans like SRCA prove to reduce costs as seen in states like Texas. When Texas spent $240 million up front in 2007, they closed 3 prisons and saved an estimated $3 billion with reforms that lowered the prison population while increasing public safety. With this overhaul, Texas lowered its prison population by more than 20%. Also, Texas crime plummeted to its lowest levels since 1968.

Impacts

By proposing a comprehensive plan, SRCA will have a significant impact on improving the justice community and will benefit all Americans. It provides for common-sense reform to prevent cruel and unusual punishment, decrease recidivism rates, and enhance public safety.

Today’s federal system spends significant amounts to imprison non-violent and low-level offenders rather than leaders of organized crime. According to an October 2011 U.S. Sentencing Commission Report to Congress, only 11 percent of those sentenced for drug offenses were “high-level suppliers or importers.” Only 7.1 percent were “organizers, leaders, or manufacturers.” However, 58.6 percent of those sentenced for drug offences were street-level dealers or below, and 27.8 percent were “couriers” or “mules.” These numbers depict the failure of the current system to target high-profile criminals it intended to incarcerate.

Recidivism rates in the U.S. are also daunting. 95 percent of federal prisoners will eventually  be released into the general public, but most of them lack  the tools to become rehabilitated members of society. SRCA creates a Recidivism Risk Assessment to determine risk levels for prisoners. Those with lower risk would receive credits to reduce their sentences by completing training programs proven to work in states like Texas.

Working to decrease recidivism enhances public safety. Prisoners return to the community with rehabilitation training and skills to help them contribute to society.  These are not “weak provisions;” they are smarter provisions that increase safety and decrease taxpayer costs.If anything, training requirements mean we are getting tougher, not softer on crime.

Consequences of Doing Nothing

As costs continue to increase exponentially in the federal prison system, less funds are available to assist other programs in DOJ. This increases the national debt and demands higher taxes to provide the average $30,000 per prisoner per year (with more than 215,000 people in federal prison during 2014). Prisoners lacking skills continue to be released into the community each year. Without any formal assistance to gain necessary capabilities to contribute to the community, these ex-prisoners return to prison due to lack of employability.

The vicious cycle of mass incarceration must end, and the conservative proposals within SRCA provide the most effective long-term solutions. These resolutions increase domestic security, decrease costs, and prevent crimes that are being unfairly punished-an inherently “conservative” ideal. I urge the Senate, especially conservatives, to support S.B. 2123 to reform the dysfunctional justice system.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1NmJoOK 

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The Destruction of Discourse on Campus

This article relates to recent events involving free speech on campus.

Last week, a heinous attack against conservatism, perpetrated by a group using the handle “@AUJusticeLeague,” ignited on Twitter. Responding to students posting pro-life flyers promoting the message #DefundPlannedParenthood, the “Justice League” tore down the flyers, vandalized them, and posted a picture displaying a middle finger towards conservative leaders on campus.

While I do respect the “Justice League’s” right to voice its concerns against the flyers, I resent its forceful silencing of others’ opinions. As I stated on Twitter in response to the creation of the account, “The way to voice your own opinion is not to tear down others but to build yourself up.” With a legitimate argument, we all could engage in civil discourse. Unfortunately, some students on campus won’t engage in a respectful conversation.

AU Justice League tweeted at The Conservative Conscience Blog Editor, Andrew Magloughlin, stating, “Your ideas are complete shite.”

The theme of intolerance is not exclusive to American University, for it seems to be an emerging trend at universities across the nation. Near my home in Nevada, a similar instance occurred at the University of California-Santa Barbara. In 2014, a feminist studies professor at UCSB assaulted a young woman who distributed anti-abortion literature in a free speech zone on campus. Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, the violent professor, justified her attack by claiming that anti-abortion signs were “disturbing” and “offensive.” She claimed that “her actions were in the defense of her students and her own safety.” Regardless of theft and battery convictions stemming from the incident, Miller-Young remains a professor at UCSB.

In another occurrence at the University of Michigan, outraged students attacked Omar Mahmood for his satirical column against trigger warnings and political correctness on campus. He sarcastically sneered in a late 2014 edition of the Michigan Review:

“The University of Michigan does literally nothing to combat the countless instances of violence we encounter every day. Whenever I walk into a classroom, I can hardly find a left-handed desk to sit in. The University cannot claim to be my school while it continues to oppress me.”

In response to Mahmood’s comments, a different campus newspaper, the Michigan Daily, for which Mahmood also wrote, dissented furiously. Michigan Daily demanded that Mahmood issue an official apology because a member of their staff felt “threatened” by his words. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an organization committed to defending free speech through legal methods, led the battle against Michigan Daily to defend Mahmood’s refusal to apologize.

Across the nation’s college campuses, a growing animosity towards civil discourse is emerging. It exists in the disguise of trigger warnings, speech codes, and free speech zones. As intelligent and educated adults, we as an AU community must allow free speech in discourse. We would not have the freedoms with which we have been blessed in the United States in the absence of an open dialogue. Without free speech, I fear that more groups like the AU Justice League will attempt to silence alternative opinions instead of debating them. Our society cannot allow differing opinions to be hushed.

As George Orwell famously declared in 1984, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

A Little Humor to End the Week

Hello everyone! After another week grinding out work in college, I think we should all take a few minutes to laugh. After today, it is officially Spring Break, and we should all take this time to have fun and laugh. I recently have learned how important it is to take breaks and giggle for a little while.  Therefore, it would be optimal for health reasons that we all take 4 minutes out of our day to sit back and watch this knee-slapping political sketch from Saturday Night Live.