Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump Presidency Should Not Slow Pace of Justice Reform

Trump Presidency Does Not Mean End of Justice Reform; Expect More Commutations
by Derek Gilna 

        In response to many requests, we are writing today about what prisoners should expect from a Trump administration. Fortunately for prisoners on both the state and federal level, this change, by itself, is just one factor that will impact prisoners. Sentence relief was not a partisan interest in this election, and although Democrats like Bernie Sanders talked a lot more about the issue, it was more in the context of increasing social justice, attacking Wall Street, and the like. No major player in the Trump campaign opposed sentence relief or the bills currently before Congress.

         But, other people say, Trump was the “law and order” candidate. However, Clinton was not AGAINST law and order, just in favor of Black Lives Matter, appealing more to her African-American voting base, who were concerned about excessive police violence. However, Trump also tweeted his concern about police violence.  This was NOT a major issue in the campaign, so let’s not get sidetracked.

         Congressional votes on justice reform were delayed because legislators didn’t want to “stir the pot” before the election, but the election is now over.  It is likely that there will now be a major push to call  the sentence relief legislation for a vote in the “lame duck” session. Both the Republicans and Democrats in leadership positions are in favor of the major bills. Now, with the Republicans controlling the Presidency (as of January 20) and both houses of Congress, they have no excuse for delaying.   We will help hold their feet to the fire (more on that in the future).

         Another positive factor is that Trump campaigned on assisting the common man, and reached out to the Black and Hispanic communities;  he got 2% more votes than Romney did in 2012. Dr. Ben Carson will have a major position in this administration. Also remember that all DOJ statistics show that decreasing incarceration has NOT increased crime, and politicians are tired of prioritizing prison expenses. The fewer the prisoners, the less expense. Our guess is that as a businessman, Trump would be receptive to the economic savings and “smaller government” arguments of a smaller criminal justice bureaucracy.

         We are hopeful that President Obama, before he leaves office, will accelerate the commutation process.  It is an understatement to say that we are profoundly disappointed about his lack of leadership of pushing sentence reform, especially when he had Democratic control of Congress in 2008, but wouldn’t object to a few thousand more over-sentenced prisoners being released.

        Finally, there is little public support for the lack of accountability shown by federal agencies, like the BOP, who hate publicity and public attention to its many shortcomings.  Many faith-based groups have taken up the cause, and is there any question they could do a better job of rehabilitation than the BOP has done, for less money? Trump got 81% of the Evangelical vote, and should be receptive to reform and shrinking the BOP. Forcing the BOP to follow its own Compassionate Release policy would be a good place to start.