For some conservatives, the words “criminal justice reform” can be cringe-worthy, and understandably so. Several radicalized groups and individuals use such words in conjunction with threats against law enforcement officers and a call for an abolition of government. “Criminal justice reform” has been inserted into many problematic platforms, and sometimes, such bold contexts make it difficult to think about a topic in any other way.
We must do our best, conservatives, to look past the misuse of such a concept. Criminal justice reform, at its core, is just changing the system to function in a better and more humane way. It is altering the policies and laws of the country to better provide justice and liberty within our great nation.
For the sake of our country, for the sake of our justice system, conservatives MUST be on board with criminal justice reform. Not convinced? Let’s work through some of the key reasons why this must be made a reality.
Liberty is at stake, thus reform criminal justice
Conservatives hold liberty near and dear. What does the criminal justice system do but strip freedoms away from individuals? In occasions where this is genuinely warranted by an individual’s actions and the risk to the public they pose, this is sensible. However, so many are stripped of their liberty via arrest and incarceration for utterly ridiculous reasons.
This specific reason is where drug reform comes in to play the most. Should violent and nonviolent marijuana users be treated identically? Do you believe that a grandmother with cancer should be sent to prison for her medicinal marijuana use? There are so many facets of criminal justice where the trampling of personal liberty could be identified, but drug prohibition as a rule of thumb exemplifies the concept perfectly.
Government must be kept in check
What does government do? Create laws. What do laws do? Create crime. What does crime do? It creates a criminal justice system. And what does the criminal justice system do? Enforce the whims and schemes of the government.
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Don’t hear what I am not saying: there are valid purposes for laws, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and government. That is OBVIOUS-they are all necessary. However, when abuses occur in government, they are easily translated down through the criminal justice system to impact the citizenry. Want to help keep big government in check? Advocate for reform within the system that acts on its behalf, the criminal justice system.
Unworthy laws create more perpetrators
A law must be established before you can have a criminal. Again, this can tie back to drug reform. But what about the teenager that is committing a status offense? Is it truly SO vital that we make buying alcohol as an 18-year-old a criminalized, arrestable offense? What about the runaway girls that are frequently picked up and considered “status offenders?”
If I opened a book of state laws (let alone a book of federal laws), I could take a Sharpie and strikethrough about half of it and still have things that could be crossed out before society stopped functioning correctly. One of the problems the criminal justice system is seeing is that unworthy laws are being created and signed every single day. Impacting the criminal justice system at the legislative level is crucial because lawmakers just slap the label of “criminal” on ordinary and innocent people every single day by legislating their liberty away.
Waste of taxpayer money
The criminal justice system currently wastes SO much taxpayer money. From the $1 TRILLION spent in the useless war on drugs to the fact that one in every 33 Americans is either imprisoned or in the parole and probation system, taxpayer money is being burned to keep the system afloat. With criminal justice reform comes a simplification of the system, and therefore, the funds needed to keep the everything running can be drastically reduced.
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This reduction would shine through not only in the numbers on a federal level but in departmental waste on a community level. If the only drug crimes that were charged were the violent ones, would you need a whole entire drug unit specifically devoted to such things? If police departments ran more like fire departments in some ways, station costs would drop.
Do you want your local law enforcement officer to be tied up in a drug bust or arresting some kid for a status offense and unable to respond to a violent crime in process? The mass amount of laws and crimes created by our criminal justice system wastes the time of law enforcement officials and keep them distracted from the most important task: keeping the public safe.
People are DYING
The most sobering reason in this list of why conservatives should support criminal justice reform is that people are DYING. Whether it be the African American man shot by a corrupt or jumpy police officer or a police officer shot by a radicalized and galvanized community member, blood is being spilled. When the headlines roll death stories consistently, it is evident that things must change.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) December 30, 2017
The blame game is not useful here. Each case is different, but they ALL take place. You can support both police officers and those who feel victimized for pushing a change in the training and policies that are utilized by law enforcement agencies. It’s not one side against another-it’s wanting every single person to be able to go home at the end of the night.
This also applies to prisons. Brutality in prisons, both from guard to prisoners and prisoner to prisoner, is very real and very frightening. Changes in the way the criminal justice system functions will see a drop in those who are incarcerated and will, in turn, impact the corrections system.
Criminal justice reform is a broad concept-these listed arguments were vague because it can’t be boiled down to one specific policy repeal or action. However, the spirit behind it is for a better America, a better justice system, and a people who prize liberty. Conservatives must stand behind such things or be thoroughly discredited. Change has been a long time coming, and we must join in.