Thursday, June 25, 2015

fact-resistant deuterostems face some facts...,

newyorker |  Criminal-justice reformers like to say that if a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who has served time. Nolan did not emerge from prison any less conservative, but he says he experienced a profound disillusionment, which has led him to play a central role in a cause that is only now finding its moment. These days, it is hard to ignore a rising conservative clamor to rehabilitate the criminal-justice system. Conservatives are as quick as liberals to note that the United States, a country with less than five per cent of the world’s population, houses nearly twenty-five per cent of the world’s prisoners. Some 2.2 million Americans are now incarcerated—about triple the number locked up in the nineteen-eighties, when, in a panic over drugs and urban crime, conservative legislators demanded tougher policies, and liberals who feared being portrayed as weak went along with them. African-Americans are nearly six times as likely as whites to be incarcerated, and Latinos are more than twice as likely. More than forty per cent of released offenders return to prison within three years.

Several Republican Presidential candidates—Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, and Ted Cruz—have been embraced by Right on Crime, a campaign to promote “successful, conservative solutions” to the punitive excesses of American law and order. In February, the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which serves as an audition for right-wing Presidential aspirants, featured three panels on criminal-justice reform, including one called Prosecutors Gone Wild. Bernard Kerik, who was Rudolph Giuliani’s police commissioner and served three years in prison for tax fraud and other crimes, now promotes an agenda of reforms, including voting rights for ex-felons. The libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch are donating money to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, to help insure that indigent defendants get competent legal representation, and they are co-sponsoring conferences on judicial reform with the American Civil Liberties Union.

In Congress and the states, conservatives and liberals have found common ground on such issues as cutting back mandatory-minimum sentences; using probation, treatment, and community service as alternatives to prison for low-level crimes; raising the age of juvenile-court jurisdictions; limiting solitary confinement; curtailing the practice of confiscating assets; rewriting the rules of probation and parole to avoid sending offenders back to jail on technicalities; restoring education and job training in prisons; allowing prisoners time off for rehabilitation; and easing the reëntry of those who have served time by expunging some criminal records and by lowering barriers to employment, education, and housing. As David Dagan and Steven M. Teles write, in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, “Retrenching the carceral state is becoming as orthodox on the Right as building it was just a few short years ago.” They conclude that this has created a “Nixon goes to China” opportunity to reverse decades of overkill.

This conservative transformation is often portrayed in the media as a novelty, and some progressives regard it as a ploy to cut taxes and turn prisons over to the private corrections industry. Yet it has deep roots and a tangle of motives, one of which is indeed a belief that downsizing prisons promises taxpayers some relief. (Locking up an inmate for a year can cost as much as tuition at a good college.) But for many conservatives, Nolan says, reducing spending is “ancillary.” “It’s human dignity that really motivates us.”