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August 3, 2016

Conservatives Should Cautiously Support Obama's Commutations

  Institute for Policy Innovation

DALLAS - The White House today announced commutations for 214 federal inmates, nearly all non-violent drug offenders, bringing the total number of commutations during President Obama’s presidency to 562, more than any recent administration. As people who prize liberty and individual rights, and who are skeptical about government power, conservatives should cautiously support these commutations as well as broader reforms ensuring those guilty of minor, nonviolent infractions have opportunities to rehabilitate and return to society as better citizens.

“Many conservatives will be initially inclined to see Obama’s commutations as the act of a liberal who is soft on crime. But conservatives need to do a rethink on criminal justice,” said Tom Giovanetti, president of the Dallas-based Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI).

“It’s becoming clear that something has gone very wrong with the justice system in the United States,” said Giovanetti recently in the Dallas Morning News. “Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Too many crimes have been federalized, as opposed to being handled more locally by state and local courts. Excessive punishments are being meted out for non-violent crimes because of mandatory sentencing requirements. And it’s dawning on people that the justice system is plagued by the same careerism and corruption that characterize other branches of government.”

“Social conservatives should understand the need for criminal justice reform, since we believe that every human life has inherent dignity and value, and we believe in the possibility of redemption,” he said. “Non-violent offenders can be punished and make restitution while keeping families intact and offenders productive. Economic conservatives should recognize that non-violent offenders are better deployed working in the private sector than incarcerated in expensive government facilities. And libertarians — well, libertarians already get it.”

“There are many pieces to the justice reform movement, including giving judges more sentencing leeway, eliminating civil asset forfeiture, and prioritizing drug treatment and in-home monitoring of incarceration,” said Giovanetti. “But commuting sentences for non-violent offenders that are far in excess of the crime is a great place to start.”

The White House today announced commutations for 214 federal inmates, nearly all non-violent drug offenders, bringing the total number of commutations during President Obama’s presidency to 562, more than any recent administration. As people who prize liberty and individual rights, and who are skeptical about government power, conservatives should cautiously support these commutations as well as broader reforms ensuring those guilty of minor, nonviolent infractions have opportunities to rehabilitate and return to society as better citizens.


 

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