President Trump said he freed 3 American hostages that former President Barak Obama could not, a fact check by the New York Times says he did not. In April President Trump said he was more popular than Obama, 3 polls said he was not. But something happened last week that revealed President Trump’s true opportunity to do what Barak Obama could not do and make history in the process!
Last Wednesday President Trump showed criminal justice leadership when he commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old black woman serving life in prison for a nonviolent drug conviction after her case was brought to his attention by the reality television star Kim Kardashian West. Although it was a commutation and not a full pardon it set Alice Marie Johnson free. She had been locked up in federal prison in Alabama since 1996 on charges related to cocaine distribution and money laundering.
As the New York Times points out this commutation was contrary to the policies his own Justice Department has enacted since he took office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year ordered federal prosecutors in pursuit of criminal justice to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against criminal defendants, reversing former President Barack Obama’s efforts to reform the criminal justice process in nonviolent drug cases.
Sessions orders replace the orders of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who in 2013 took aim at criminal justice issues such as drug sentencing rules. He encouraged prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of a case and to exercise discretion in charging drug crimes. In cases of nonviolent defendants with insignificant criminal histories and no connections to criminal organizations, Mr. Holder instructed prosecutors to omit details about drug quantities from charging documents so as not to trigger automatically harsh penalties.
There are legitimate reasons why President Trump has publically contemplated firing Sessions as Attorney General, this ill-timed and inhumane criminal justice policy reversal against non-violent drug offenders should be reason #1. Reason #2 is Sessions reversal denies President Trump an opportunity to make Presidential history.
President Trump’s get-tough law and order persona give him the unique ability to do something Barak Obama could have never done, something no other President since Ronald Reagan could do. President Trump can make Presidential history by being the first President to enact true criminal justice reform, reform America needs in order to establish a criminal justice system for the 21stcentury.
True reform would address 7 criminal justice issues:
* Decrease the United States’ prison population
* Reduce prison sentences that are too harsh and long
* Reform drug sentencing policy
* Reform why, how and who prosecutors prosecute
* Police reform
* Juvenile justice reform
* Eliminate cash bail for all non-violent offenses
Former President Obama made an honest attempt at true criminal justice reform, particularly in reducing overly harsh sentences, drug sentencing, and prosecutorial reform. In fact, he made a bit of criminal justice history himself. Barak Obama was the first president in American history to visit a prison, check out the video below as he visits El Reno Federal Correctional Institution
Former President Obama made history when he became the 1st sitting President to visit an American prison
Barak Obama was the first black president of the country with a sizable population that didn’t even believe he was born in America, this politically limited him in addressing the criminal justice system problems. Because true criminal justice reform will benefit American blacks the most, his political opponents would have cried reverse racism. Prime example, Alice Marie Johnson was rejected for clemency 3 times by Obama. Had he granted her clemency, due to circumstances surrounding her conviction there would have been a loud negative Republican reaction opposite to the positive one President Trump received. Obama was able to pardon 212 people and commuted the sentences of 1,715 prisoners, including 568 serving life sentences.
Based on the pardons President Trump has granted so far, he feels free and is allowed the freedom by his political supporters to grant pardons and commutations to anybody anyhow anyway. People have said that negotiations with North Korea are President Trump’s Nixon to China moment, but true reform of the U.S. criminal justice system could be President Trump’s historic Nixon to China achievement! An achievement that will “make America great again”, and put President Trump in the history books of accomplishing a feat no other president could!
Although American blacks would be the biggest beneficiaries of reform, criminal justice facts affect everyone. Pat Nolan Director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform, a leading voice in the national criminal justice reform movement, and a former Republican member of the California State Assembly who served 29 months in federal custody for racketeering during the 1990s, is a former convict who is an American white conservative with a unique perspective on prison and criminal justice today. He says:
“First, I think we need prisons. There are people who are such a danger to society that we do need to remove them from the community. But I also believe in human dignity and in redemption. I believe those in prison should not be debased or humiliated, and every effort should be made to help them turn their lives around. And that’s not the reality today in many prisons. Instead, the skills someone develops to survive inside prison tend to make them better criminals and more dangerous when they get out.
Secondly, we’ve gotten to the point where prison has become the default punishment for too many lower-level crimes. So we incarcerate people who frankly aren’t a danger to society. By overusing incarceration, we’ve caused our prison population to explode, and at great cost both fiscally and in human terms. Excessive incarceration separates families and makes returning inmates virtually unemployable. As a conservative, I feel taxpayers aren’t getting as much public safety as we are paying for. So we need to handle low-level offenders without sending them to prison.
They need to be held accountable, but if they are not a physical threat to anyone, let them remain home with their families, stay employed, and be under supervision. And we have to provide them with drug treatment and mental health services if they need them.”
A Trump true criminal justice initiative would not only be a historic benefit to American blacks, but it could also be a rare bi-partisan accomplishment amidst a sea of bitter partisan politics. A poll released by the Justice Action Network, the largest bipartisan organization working to reform the justice system federally and across the country, shows voter support for bipartisan justice reforms is overwhelmingly high, especially among women, who remain a crucial voting bloc heading into the 2018 midterm elections. Poll highlights are:
- General Criminal Justice Reform: By a 76%‐21% margin, voters believe the country’s criminal justice system needs significant improvements versus its working pretty well as it is, including 80% of women voters.
- Prison Reform: By an 85%‐13% margin, voters agree that the main goal of our criminal justice system should be rehabilitating people. Significant majorities of Republicans (79%), Independents (83%), and Democrats (92%) agree with this approach
- Sentencing Reform: An overwhelming majority of voters (87%‐11%) strongly support replacing mandatory minimum sentences for non‐violent offenders with a system that allows judges more discretion. Support is strong from the right to the left among Republicans (83%), Independents (88%) and Democrats (89%).
- Women: It’s nearly unanimous that voters support reforms specific to incarcerated women, the fastest growing segment of the prison population: 90% support providing basic hygiene products to incarcerated women free of charge, and 86% would ban the shackling of pregnant women.
- Fair Chance Hiring: Fully two‐thirds of voters (65%‐33%) support fair chance hiring ‐‐ allowing job applicants to explain their qualifications for a job before they are asked about their criminal histories.
“This is not a partisan issue, voters strongly believe that the country’s criminal justice system needs serious improvements,” “Significant majorities of Republican and Democratic voters across the country favor these reforms, including key 2018 target constituencies like independent voters and women voters. I can’t emphasize enough how strongly voters support these reforms. As a political pollster looking towards 2018 I think all politicians should pay attention”.
“Go back to 2006, women voted for the Democratic candidate by double digits. In 2010, women favored the GOP candidate and helped deliver the house to Republicans. Key constituencies are strong on these reforms and they can help give a lift to candidates everywhere.” said Robert Blizzard, Partner at Public Opinion Strategies, the firm who conducted the poll among 800 registered voters between January 11 and January 14.
Leaders of both the Democrat and Republican Party claim they are looking for issues they can find common ground on, issues they can actually work together on. This is one starring them and President Trump dead in the eye.
President Trump, you asked American blacks to give you a chance, this is that chance!!! A MEGA HISTORIC chance to accomplish a feat that will put you in the historic league that only 2 other Presidents have reached. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was one of the catalysts behind and signed both the Civil and Voting Rights Acts into law, and President Abraham Lincoln who freed American black slaves. President Trump, please seize this historic opportunity to reform the American criminal justice system and make yourself a legend in American history, not only to benefit American blacks but for the benefit of all Americans!!!
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at isaacnewtonfarris.com on June 11, 2018.