Jorge Marin

Despite Naysayers, Conservative Leaders Agree on Justice Reform

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, February 1st, 2016, 5:57 PM PERMALINK


In a press call with the US Justice Action Network Thursday, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist addressed the concerns some Senators have with criminal justice reform.

The US Justice Action Network brings together both conservative and progressive organizations to promote a “smarter, fairer, and cost effective” criminal justice system on all levels of government. Among the members are Americans for Tax Reform, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Freedomworks, and Right on Crime.

While a small number of politicians want to put the brakes on Senate reform packages, the bulk of the center-right movement has come out in strong support of sensible reforms. ATR president Grover Norquist stated that

“As we have learned from a decade of success, sentencing reform works. The package being considered by the Senate is meant to implement the lessons of states like Georgia and Texas, who have seen historic crime rate reductions. The senators who wish to look more closely at the provisions in the Sentencing and Corrections Act are right to be engaged on the issue, but they should also look to the red states which have pioneered these reforms. The package in question is right for the states, and it is right for the nation. We look forward to improving the bill and getting good policy passed.”

Crime rates in the United States has been dropping steadily for over two decades. As America learns more about the interplay between long sentences and lock-em-up policies, the country has found out that there are better ways to handle crime and justice.

Daniel Allott recently covered the call in the Washington Examiner. Allott noted that “For those concerned about ever-encroaching government, the federal criminal code has risen from 3,000 to 5,000 crimes in a generation,” an issue especially salient for those worried about criminal intent reform. He also made the argument by recognizing that “America's 2.3 million inmates cost taxpayers $80 billion a year,” ostensibly making justice reform a taxpayer issue.

The large American prison population has reached—and surpassed—the point of diminishing return. Research and experience have shown that to continue reducing crime, the US needs to look at cost-cutting investments and better laws. Conservative leaders and Republican legislatures have shown the way forward, the judiciary committee chairs in both chambers have taken up the calls, now it is time for the center-right to unite behind its own reforms. 

Photo Credit: 
Gage Skidmore

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


“Obama has one more year to reach out…on Criminal Justice Reform” Says Grover Norquist

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016, 6:14 PM PERMALINK


Ahead of President Obama’s final State of the Union Address, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist called for further action on criminal justice reform. In a comment to the Coalition for Public Safety, of which ATR is a part of, Mr. Norquist stated

“Decades of over-criminalization, over-regulation, and over-incarceration have done great harm to personal liberties and taxpayers. President Obama has one more year to reach out to Congress and act on legislation meant to roll back the encroachment of a prison system that has no signs of stopping its growth — even at the expense of public safety and hardworking taxpayers. Washington foot dragging has prevented solutions to problems like the abuse of the asset forfeiture system, and adequate intent protections for crimes, otherwise known as mens rea. Moreover, the unnecessary lengths of many drug sentences increase the risks of recidivism as they take up precious resources from law enforcement. Rather than waste billions in a broken and abusive system, it’s time to do what’s right for American taxpayers and public safety.”

Both chambers are currently debating their own proposals to deal with prison reform, sentencing, and mens rea issues. All of these have the potential to save the taxpayer millions while adding to national safety. So far, there has been bi-partisan support for all of these efforts.

Republicans in Congress and in the states have proven to be leaders in all of these areas. Stalwarts like Representative Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Ia.) have each introduced legislation in their respective chambers to reform sentencing, while Goodlatte has overseen the introduction of a sweeping mens rea reform package—which ATR has endorsed.

After seven years of a lackluster and damaging presidency, President Obama has an opportunity to work with Republicans on an issue of vital importance to public safety. Hopefully, this final State of the Union will avoid partisan attacks and create common ground to pass substantive conservative justice reform.

Photo Credit: 
DonkeyHotey

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments

Haiku Guy

I just took a big stinky Obama. Then I flushed it.


Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act gets Positive Reviews in First Senate Hearing

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015, 2:29 PM PERMALINK


The Senate Judiciary Committee showed a unified front as it heard testimonies yesterday on of wide-ranging reforms to the nation’s prisons. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA)—the subject of the hearing—aims to replicate the success of several red states by re-balancing old mandatory minimum sentences and re-focusing savings on prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation to keep non-violent criminals from committing more crimes.

Among the panelists supporting the measures were Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Justice Fellowship executive director Craig DeRoche, and former US Attorney Brett Tolman.

Ms. Yates made a strong case to focus prison spending on actually reducing crime rather than warehousing non-violent criminals for longer than necessary. She made the case that “we need an approach that is more carefully tailored, so we that we can focus our resources where they are needed most.” She also heavily emphasized the importance of punishing violent criminals with stronger mandatory minimums for violent crimes and reducing the numbers of repeat offenders in SRCA as important steps forward.

Mr. Tolman, meanwhile, praised the bill for its projected benefits to public safety due to “those states which have applied a similar regime have found, this will increase public safety while saving taxpayers money.” The success found in conservative states, most notably Texas, which saved taxpayers at least $3 billion and has its lowest crime rates since 1968, are a key reason for conservative support of these reforms.

The only two witnesses critical of the proposal were Steven Cook, president of the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys and Heather Mac Donald, contributing fellow at the City Journal.

Mr. Cook defended the status quo by arguing that “the approach [to crime] worked. By 1991, as increasing numbers of criminals went to prison, the crime trend was reversed and crime rates actually began to drop.” However, a growing body of research is showing that this is not the case. In fact, as practical experience has shown, conservative reforms actually lower both crime rates and imprisonment faster than states with no reforms.

The federal budget currently spends $80 billion to maintain its prisons, making up 25% of the Department of Justice’s budget. This is after growing by 600% since 1980.  SRCA aims to grapple balancing public safety with effective budget usage. Instead of “arresting their way out” of the problem and creating more pressure on the prison systems, the SRCA makes smarter sentencing a reality and provides a way for federal resources to actually enhance public safety.

Photo Credit: 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/marineperez/4698707308/in/photolist-8ad6YY-xPxEet-7DMweA-8Aus3-rpJN4-bjoHVX-62R4Ev-6qoBmK-byTHXc-8AvSm-aekaK4-de3U-9icSX1-6qsN9C-kBxd2-gxTYR-gjmKrq-gYYzoZ-iUKE8K-8TaAdQ-gLRWAA-3KPTQU-qakxXS-8YW9eM-g9giVA-tgAxsz-yYUoAR-a5idwo-

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


Judiciary Committee Reaches Agreement on Prison Reform

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, October 1st, 2015, 1:32 PM PERMALINK


Flanked by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced sweeping new legislation to reform the nation’s criminal justice system. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act would address America’s unsustainable prison population and the harm caused by an ineffective correctional system—though the changes in question come short of a final fix, they are an important step towards a justice system that saves taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe.

The proposed legislation is the result of months of negotiation between the members of the judiciary committee. Many of the provisions, such as recidivism reduction and rehabilitation, have been successfully applied in conservative states like Texas and Georgia. Congressional lawmakers should be applauded for their efforts to replicate proven success at the federal level.

Photo Credit: 
Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


“This is State government, sir”: Michigan gets one step closer to Asset Forfeiture Reform

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin, Danil Zelenkov on Thursday, August 20th, 2015, 2:00 PM PERMALINK


Yesterday, the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee demonstrated bold legislative initiative by unexpectedly voting a slew of civil asset forfeiture reform bills out of committee.

The committee heard testimonies from national advocacy organizations on both sides of the aisle as well as law enforcement. Although there was some token opposition from state law enforcement, seven of the eight bills passed the committee unanimously.

At the hearing, US Justice Action Network Executive Director Holly Harris explained the convoluted history of asset forfeiture in America,

Centuries ago, civil asset forfeiture was actually used as a means to seize assets from pirates.  In the 1980s, asset forfeiture was expanded to seize assets from international drug kingpins.  But now, law enforcement is using civil asset forfeiture to seize cars and cash from average citizens who are never even charged with crimes.  And here in Michigan, far too many innocent property owners have found themselves entangled in a flawed process…We are a long way from pirates and kingpins.

Jorge Marin, Criminal Justice Specialist at Americans for Tax Reform, also congratulated the Michigan Association of Police Organizations for their endorsement of the proposals,

Fortunately, this is a uniting issue. The Michigan Association of Police Organizations understands full well that bad laws reflect poorly on the vast majority of police officers; men and women who genuinely want to protect their communities and have done so with distinction.  The Package of laws under consideration would strengthen the reporting requirements for forfeitures. This would be a massive step in the right direction.

He further explained the importance of protecting the due process of law and how civil asset forfeiture laws infringe upon that,

You may be wondering what taxes have to do with civil asset forfeiture. Simply put, tax reform is simply a means to an end: the end being the protection and expansion of individual freedom. For this reason we have flagged asset forfeiture as an egregious threat to due process and legislative accountability of the nation’s crucial police force and their budgets.

Yesterday ATR released an official endorsement of Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture legislation.

After being asked about what the federal government was doing with respects to asset forfeiture by an ill-fated prosecutor, Committee Chairman Rick Jones shot back “this is state government, sir,” demonstrating how the states are leading on this issue despite what the federal government is doing.

Americans for Tax Reform is supportive of the Senate Judiciary Committee decision to move forward with this legislation. We urge state legislators across the country to take Michigan's lead.

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


Tune In to the Bipartisan Summit on Fair Justice


Posted by Jorge Marin on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015, 9:00 AM PERMALINK


We all know the statistics. The United States is drowning in one of the world’s most extensive prison populations… and budgets. Americans for Tax Reform is committed to reducing the footprint of the government in people’s lives as much as possible; this is why we are joining our efforts with the Coalition for Public Safety, and the parties present here today.

In order to secure the crime reductions we have been able to achieve in recent years, and expand them, we are looking to apply the proven reforms which have been so successful at the state level. By encouraging better sentencing and more effective alternatives to incarceration, America can provide justice and fiscal sanity simultaneously.

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


Momentum is Building for Reform: Speaker Boehner Steps Up

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin on Friday, July 17th, 2015, 3:45 PM PERMALINK


Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a strong statement in favor of criminal justice reform. On July 16, the Speaker made clear that America has too many people incarcerated. People who do not necessarily belong there.

National leaders are becoming more vocal about the need to improve the justice system across the nation. Although the United States has one of the most extensive prison systems in the world, two thirds of released prisoners can expect to go back to jail. Speaker Boehner is right to call attention to our wasteful criminal system.

We are at a point where counting the number of federal crimes is close to impossible. Thanks to everything from draconian crimes to draconian sentencing our prison population has reached unacceptable levels. Moreover, the people who go through the system are more likely to return to prison that not. According to the speaker,

“We’ve got a lot of people in prison, frankly, that really… don't need to be there. It's expensive. The housed prisoners, sometimes… are in there under what I'll call flimsy reasons.”

The SAFE Justice Act, which Speaker Boehner supported in his remarks, tackles the most pressing problems facing our courts and prisons. By focusing mandatory minimums for certain offenses on the most dangerous criminals, SAFE Justice targets police resources on the most pressing offenders. The bill also reduces federal over-criminalization, and increases the use of mens rea-in order to make sure that an individual was aware of whether his or her actions are criminal.

These measures will make our streets safer, and our budgets smaller.

Americans for Tax Reform is committed to seeing a smaller, more effective government in all its forms. Leaders in Congress should apply the principles in the SAFE Justice Act to reign in the excesses of our criminal Justice system. Speaker Boehner took an important step today.

 

Photo Credit: 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerboehner/

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


Oklahoma Senator Criticized for Defending People's Rights

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin, Danil Zelenkov on Friday, July 10th, 2015, 3:00 PM PERMALINK


In Oklahoma, one state senator has taken it upon himself to tackle a controversial practice. Senator Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) is waging war on his state’s broken civil asset forfeiture laws. In Oklahoma—which currently has a D in the Institute for Justice’s scorecard—authorities can take and keep a person’s property based on a suspicion of wrongdoing.

One critic was quick to attack the Senator. “This is without a doubt the single worst, most damning, most asinine  and devastating bill I have ever seen for this State and local law enforcement,” fumed Randall Edwards, Canadian County Sheriff, in an email to the press.

Edwards went on to say, “I don't know why they or anyone else in their right mind would think the state would been titled to my agencies proceeds from [civil asset forfeiture].

Loveless can expect a fight over his proposed legislation.

The new bill – SB 838 – would require law enforcement to file a conviction before any assets are forfeited to authorities. It would also elevate the burden of proof from ‘preponderance of evidence’ to ‘clear and convincing’ so as to shift the burden away from the innocent citizen. Once assets are seized, a trial by jury is guaranteed to resolve the case. SB 838 also takes away part of the profit incentive for law enforcement by requiring all assets to be attributed to the General Revenue Fund.

The goal is to prevent the abuse of asset forfeiture laws in the state, and contrary to what Sheriff Edwards may say, there is abuse. Take the case of Desert Snow—a private intelligence network based in Oklahoma that aids local police in seizing drugs and cash during roadside stops. In 2013, employees of Desert snow were hired as interdiction units with the power to seize assets by local authorities. These individuals were allowed to keep some of the proceeds from the assets they seized.

After a District Court found that dozens of asset forfeiture cases were based on these private interdiction units he threw out the cases and threatened Davis with jail if he carried on.

However, that is not the worst of Desert Snow or its sister organization, Black Asphalt. The Washington Post reports that “Agencies with police known to be participating in the Black Asphalt intelligence network have seen a 32 percent jump in seizures beginning in 2005,” a drastic jump for a process which is only challenged one sixth of the time.

Sen. Loveless’ bill is only one of the many efforts to curb these excesses.

States like Iowa and Kansas have outlawed the use of Black Asphalt information and a Nebraska prosecutor warned that the company’s methods infringe upon civil liberties. Oklahoma defense attorney Adam Banner described Black Asphalt’s activities as a ‘free-for-all cash grab’.

With all due respect to Sheriff Edwards, all too often “your agency’s profits” (excuse the correction) come at the cost of due process. Who in their right mind would tolerate such an asinine regime?

 

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


Pennsylvania Should Vote YES on SB 869

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, June 4th, 2015, 11:00 AM PERMALINK


Civil Asset Forfeiture, the controversial practice wherein the police can confiscate property without a warrant or conviction, is facing a much needed overhaul in Pennsylvania. Senators Mike Folmer and Anthony Williams have introduced SB 869, a bill which would bring Pennsylvania on par with states like New Mexico and Montana.

The Keystone State has struggled with asset forfeitures for too long. Though initially intentioned to prevent drug traffickers from keeping their profits, it has since metastasized into a law enforcement mechanism that creates incentives for police to take and keep property from people without charging them with a crime. Just in the last ten years, Pennsylvania has raked in more than $100 million from seized assets.

What’s more, people under the current regime are liable to lose their homes if someone (not necessarily the owners) does drugs on the property. Last year, a couple lost their house after police arrested their son for possessing “$40 worth of heroin.”

A review of the assets forfeited from 2011 to 2012 revealed that the median amount seized was around $180; not enough for people to go to court over. As a result, it is unusual for the forfeitures to be contested. Over 1,000 houses have already been taken by authorities over the course of a decade, to be used by the very organizations that took them.

The new law would upend that status quo.

Firstly, property would not be forfeited until the proprietor is convicted of a crime. This seemingly common-sense point is long overdue, and ensures that due process is observed when stripping someone of their belongings.

The next major development is the removal of any sort of profit incentive for the seizures. By directing the funds forfeited into the state’s general fund, the state legislature regains oversight over the assets that authorities seize.

Equitable sharing, which allows local police to circumvent state laws, is also curtailed by the new law. It  is a federal procedure by which local police can use federal asset forfeiture rules to seize property and receive up to 80% of the value back.

By using equitable sharing, Pennsylvania authorities were able to score over $50 million from 2000 to 2008, racking up an average of almost $6 million per year. It is unjustifiable to have such a lax legal regime be imposed on states which may not want to be a part of the federal government’s asset forfeiture rules, and Pennsylvania has a shot at fixing that particular situation.

The effort to reform asset forfeiture has also been applauded by the Coalition for Public Safety, of which ATR is a member. Legislators in Pennsylvania should seize this opportunity to fix their asset forfeiture regime and set a precedent for other states looking to do the same.

Photo Credit: 
Michael Coghlan

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


Grover Norquist: "Audit the Pentagon"

Share on Facebook
Tweet this Story
Pin this Image

Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, May 14th, 2015, 4:46 PM PERMALINK


Today, Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced an amendment to bring the Pentagon closer to the audit that it owes to the American taxpayer.

If the Pentagon is worried about the lack of funds for maintaining America’s arsenal, then the solution isn’t to break the nation’s finances, but to stop wasting money on projects which are “too big to fail.” Projects like the F-35, which consistently under-perform and increase in cost.

The amendment requires the Department of Defense to submit a list of the departments and agencies which are most prepared for a comprehensive audit. Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist had this to say about the amendment:

All departments of the United States Government are audited--except the Pentagon.  This is not acceptable.  If the management of the Pentagon cannot pass an audit--get new management.

At a time when resources are scarce it is particularly important that we audit the Pentagon to reduce waste and the costs of mismanagement.

All Americans who want our nation strong and secure know that step one is to ensure that all available resources are being spent wisely.  Every wasted dollar is a cut in our preparedness. An audit is the only way to begin to know how much is misspent.

Representative Burgess also weighed in on his amendment:

As the holder of the purse, Congress has a duty to demand transparency,” Rep. Burgess said. “Our amendment will provide Congress with concrete, concise information as to how close each part of DOD is to achieving the goal. No such list currently exists and Congress to date has not required it. This amendment corrects a crucial missing puzzle piece and allows the Congress to execute a chief governmental function: oversight. –Burgess

In a released statement from Representative Lee’s office, the Congresswoman also addresses taxpayer concerns:

Unauditable is unacceptable. It has been more than two decades since the Pentagon was required to undergo an audit and the Pentagon is still reporting that full audit-readiness is years off. This amendment, which also passed last year, requires a ranked list of all departments and agencies by their audit-readiness status. This list will empower Congress to make decisions on next steps to ensure auditability of the Pentagon,” said Congresswoman Lee. “We need greater sunlight and transparency so the American people know how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent. It’s past time to end waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars in Pentagon spending.

The Pentagon’s books have remained closed for too long, the nation deserves a military establishment that demonstrates a culture of fiscal responsibility and efficiency. Representatives should strongly consider this proposal.

Photo Credit: 
gregwest98

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Top Comments


Pages

hidden
×