Proposals that stood out in 2015, like restricting employers from asking about criminal records on job applications, have become baselines. Senator Kamala Harris of California — who has emphasized her career as a self-described “progressive prosecutor” but has also faced some criticism for her record — suggested financial incentives for prosecutors’ offices to reduce incarceration and recidivism, instead of the current incentives for convicting more people and imprisoning them longer.
No one in the 2015 report suggested decriminalizing marijuana, but Mr. She also focused on funding for overworked public defender offices; more than 90 percent of felony convictions come from plea bargains, she wrote, which “must lead us to wonder whether a guilty plea is truly a result of evidence of guilt or the lack of resources to mount a meaningful defense.”Mr.
But the activism in recent years has been broadly bipartisan.“Obviously it’s good that it’s a lively subject in the presidential campaign,” said Marc Levin, vice president for criminal justice policy at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, who contributed to the 2015 report.
But “when you have 21 voices on one side, we don’t want people to draw the wrong conclusion and think that the only energy for reform is coming from the left.”Mr.
The report, published Thursday by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, is a sequel to one published four years ago, in which the 2016 presidential candidates outlined their criminal justice platforms.
The new essays, including those from eight Democratic candidates and Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Trump, show how profoundly the debate has changed.“In 2015, our goal was to get all of these candidates on record simply saying the word that they were committed to reducing the prison population,” said Inimai M.
Booker, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas did in the new one, and other candidates have suggested it elsewhere. Holden, who works on criminal justice and other public policy issues for Koch Industries, owned by the Koch brothers, went further: Until public defenders are sufficiently funded, he wrote, “the government should not be allowed to prosecute defendants who lack an effective advocate.”Notable, too, was the extent to which many contributors focused on root causes of mass incarceration — including some that are not, on the surface, related to criminal justice at all.
In 2015, limiting employers’ ability to ask about criminal history was the central proposal from Cornell William Brooks of the N. Julián Castro, the former housing secretary, based his essay on the premise that “housing policy is criminal justice reform,” noting that the harsh policing of communities of color is partly a consequence of segregation.
But the shift evident in the report is rarer: a wholesale reversal of bipartisan consensus.
For many years, Republicans cast Democrats as “weak on crime,” nowhere more effectively than in the 1988 presidential race.