No more free rides?

Could it be that the mindless anything-goes-as-long-as-you’re-tough-on-drugs philosophy is showing cracks?
“bullet” Editorial: Incarceration Lobby Deserves Tough Questions

Here’s a question to those who gathered in Sparta last week to criticize Gov. Jim Doyle’s public safety budget:
Why does the United States, with just 5 percent of the world’s population, house 25 percent of the world’s prisoners?
Led by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, several public officials blasted Doyle’s budget, which calls for the early release of non-violent prisoners and cutting back on supervision and parole. They levelled the criticism despite a huge state budget deficit and a corrections budget already grown at a staggering pace. Consider that:
*In 1996, Wisconsin spent $360 million on corrections. It was $1 billion in 2008.
*In 1982, one out of every 437 Wisconsin residents was in jail or prison. In 2007, it was one out of 109. […]
It’s time to ask some very tough questions about our criminal justice system, including: […]
* Are too many things against the law? Is there any reason, for example, for anyone to serve a day of jail time for selling marijuana?
If stuffing people into prison guaranteed safety, then America would be the safest country in the world. We aren’t, and it’s the incarceration lobby, not the governor, that deserves the political hot seat.

Can you believe we have a paper taking on the “incarceration lobby”? And calling it that?
“bullet” In Maryland Cheye Calvo’s efforts to bring accountability to SWAT are paying off

Delegates adopted a bill, on a 126 to 9 vote, that would require law enforcement agencies to report every six months on their use of SWAT teams, including what kinds of warrants the teams serve and whether any animals are killed during raids.

The first steps to reform in this area are transparency and accountability, so this is critical. The mere fact that officers are going to have to go to the state house twice a year and tell them how many dogs they shot…
“bullet” Ryan Grim at Huffington Post: Webb Crime Bill Gets Unlikely Support

Jim Webb stepped firmly on a political third rail last week when he introduced a bill to examine sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system. Yet he emerged unscathed, a sign to a political world frightened by crime and drug issues that the bar might not be electrified any more. […]
Webb told the Huffington Post. “I heard from Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court, from prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers, former offenders, people in prison, and police on the street. All of them have told me that our system needs to be fixed, and that we need a holistic plan of how to solve it.”
Webb’s reform is backed by a coalition of liberals, conservatives and libertarians that couldn’t have existed even a few years ago. […]
The bill was cosponsored by the entire Senate Democratic leadership and enthusiastically welcomed by prominent liberal bloggers. The blogosphere, dominated by younger activists, has been particularly open to calls for drug and criminal justice policy reform.
Support for the proposal has come in from the right, too. The Lynchburg News and Advance a conservative paper that publishes in the hometown of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, weighed in favorably. […]
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson of tells the Huffington Post he’s open to Webb’s bill. […]
Over the weekend, the family-friendly Parade magazine featured a cover story by Webb titled “Why We Must Fix Our Prisons.”

This, despite the fact that Webb does not even shy away from the legalization question…

“It’s a very real question. It’s a very legitimate question,” he told one caller, noting that the past three presidents and more than half of Americans have used illegal drugs at some point in their lifetimes.
“At some level, most people do enjoy their beer or whatever it is,” Webb said. “On the other end of the rail, there is tremendous danger, particularly among young people, when you get to drugs, that we have to have some protections and some sort of education. There you have the question. It’s a legitimate question. And the best way to deal with this is to put it in front of people who are going to look at all the ramifications of this and come up with something.”

We have known for some time that the political third rail that scares politicians when it comes to criminal justice/drug policy reform has lost its inherent power. The only way it has power is when the politician gives it power by being afraid of it. Even the attack ad from opponents can be defanged easily if the politician is willing to stand up for what they believe.
Of course, we need to support Jim Webb in his efforts and continue to push the public to support reform — we’ve got a long way to go. But when tough-on-drugs and tough-on-crime are no longer automatic trump cards, we’re in the game.

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