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Smart on Crime: An Alternative to the Tough vs. Soft Debate

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An inmate uses the recreation room of one of the housing units at a correctional center in Elk Grove, California, May 30, 2013. AP/Rich Pedroncelli

  • The debate between being tough or soft on crime is rhetorical and has no value in the criminal justice conversation today.
  • Related: "We Don't Have the Rule of Law": Barrett Brown on Incarceration, Journalism and His Next Steps

Ed Chung, American Progress

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May 12, 2017 | Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed federal prosecutors to pursue the most aggressive approach against federal criminal defendants, rescinding part of former Attorney General Eric Holder “Smart on Crime” initiative. Over the past five years, the momentum to reform the criminal justice system reached a crescendo as communities and their elected http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/01/11/opinion/justice190v.jpg leaders across the country looked to enact smart criminal justice policies to make the system more effective and equitable for all. Yet the widespread attention and energy behind reform efforts is relatively recent and is at risk because government leaders still guard against being labeled “soft on crime.” 

However, the debate between being tough or soft on crime is rhetorical and has no value in the criminal justice conversation today. Communities now are looking to be “Smart on Crime”—that is, to pursue policies that are thoughtful, fair, and effective. Smart on Crime is shorthand for a set of criminal justice principles that supports a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform. It is time to move beyond political sound bites and the false choice between being either tough or soft on crime and focus instead on being smart on crime.

Ed Chung is Vice President for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress. The author (thanks) Sarah Shapiro for her contribution to this column.

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Related:

"We Don't Have the Rule of Law": Barrett Brown on Incarceration, Journalism and His Next Steps, Candice Bernd, Truthout 

http://www.truth-out.org/images/images_2017_05/2017_0603rrcb_.jpg Barrett Brown at his residence in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, May 20, 2017. (Photo: Candice Bernd)

The government is frankly illegitimate in many ways and should be treated as such. I think that will become more evident. Let's say, even if they successfully remove this administration, we still have this 35 percent of people in this country who will support any fascist authoritarian like this, and they're still there. They may increase in number.

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