America’s criminal justice system is in desperate need of legal reform, to fix a prison service that is in the worst state it has ever been.
In 2013, the Obama administration pushed for criminal justice reform to revamp a “broken” prison system. Legislators called for mandatory minimum sentencing policies to be scrapped to avoid harsh sentences for non-violent offenses, a move that was backed by an unusual bipartisan coalition in Congress.
One of the key reading topics for the Impact Prisons 2017 forum was titled, ‘The President’s role in advancing criminal justice reform’ and looked at President Obama’s essay submitted to the Harvard Law Review on that very topic.
“How we treat citizens who make mistakes (even serious mistakes), pay their debt to society, and deserve a second chance reflects who we are as a people”
President Obama said that “Presidencies can exert substantial influence over the direction of the U.S. criminal justice system… How we treat citizens who make mistakes (even serious mistakes), pay their debt to society, and deserve a second chance reflects who we are as a people and reveals a lot about our character and commitment to our founding principles.
“And how we police our communities and the kinds of problems we ask our criminal justice system to solve can have a profound impact on the extent of trust in law enforcement and significant implications for public safety… I saw firsthand how our criminal justice system exacerbates inequality. It takes young people who made mistakes no worse than my own and traps them in an endless cycle of marginalization and punishment,” he added.
However, President Trump recently called for tougher sentencing and criminal justice reform of his own, but in the opposite direction. Although these steps have yet to be taken the division in governing styles between his and the Obama administrations is already very evident.
Analysts have suggested that Trump’s ‘law and order’ rhetoric could take the American legal system back to the nineties, and reverse the good work the Obama administration has achieved over the past eight years.
Legal reformists have warned that unless Congress can take back power from the ‘imperial presidency’, a moniker used to describe the ever-increasing power developing within the White House, the criminal justice system will fall into further disrepair.
Congress holds the power to make, break and approve laws, and legislators are being encouraged to join forces to manipulate the powers they possess to give America the legal reform it deserves.
In an exclusive interview with Bold Business, Jim Copland, Director of Legal Policy, Manhattan Institute, says that the key to legal reform in the United States is to scale back the federal regulatory state and give the power back to Congress and the courts.
“The administrative actions that congress has been delegating to the executive branch fundamentally reshapes the way our government works. If we can rein that in, then we can return some of the power to Congress and in effect to the people,” he said.
So, it will take many bold actions by those in power to push forward the criminal justice reform the United States so desperately needs, to improve the prison service, and to bring it into the modern age.
It remains to be seen what steps President Trump will take and whether he exercises less or more power over federal laws, but one thing is certain that during his presidency legislators must work tirelessly to ensure Congress can take back power from the executive branch to allow Americans the free society they deserve.