I always think that when a politician's outreach to Black voters is focused on criminal justice alone, the politician is racist. What is more racist than assuming Black voters only care about crime and incarceration and not about schools, child care, and the environment?
Such politicians see Blackness as a pathology of crime and poverty. It's why I had such contempt for Bernie for attacking Hillary on the Crime Bill (which he voted for) and for the attacks on Kamala for being a prosecutor. Trump's lies about Biden & super-predator are the same.
And let's not dismiss the contradiction of a man who still insists the Central Park Five are guilty and demanded their execution, a man who won't denounce police murders of unarmed Black men and women, trying to make political hay out of the Crime Bill.
But let's talk about the Crime Bill. Michelle Alexander wrote a book that made the accurate point that things that were not criminal before (such as vagrancy) became criminalized in order to re-enslave Black people through prison labor, but then applied it to the Crime Bill
And she wrote an essay in The Nation to attack Hillary. This created a false understanding of over-incarceration that had a negative impact on reform efforts by focusing energy on federal policy rather than the real driver of incarceration, state policy
It also erases the environment in which the 1994 Crime Bill was passed. Look at how quickly the violent crime rate was increasing. People were scared and there were academics saying this was due to prenatal drug use and babies born addicted and growing up to be "superpredators"
We know now that this theory was wrong, but at the time people thought that was possible. After all poor prenatal nutrition causes developmental disabilities. There is fetal alcohol syndrome, so why not drug-addicted babies growing up to be criminals?
People were afraid in 1995. So as Chair of the Judiciary Biden oversaw the drafting of the Crime Bill. He wrote some of it, but not all of it. It included proposals from the GOP and the Dems, and not all people voted for every provision, though they still voted for the final bill
Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act and the Drug Courts diversionary program, and the Assault Weapons ban, all parts of the crime bill. But it was a bill made up of several pieces written by several people including Republicans.
In fact, when Republicans voted against it, they did so because they said it was about hiring more social workers than cops and they made hay, mocking the idea of funding midnight basketball.
The "Three-Strikes" provision came from Republicans and there is a history of Biden disagreeing with it, though he ended up voting for it.
Here is an excellent piece on the Crime Bill and what parts Biden supported or did not support but voted for because he thought the total package was overall good. Remember, this is in light of rising crime that had people scared.
The reason the Crime Bill seems so outrageous today is because the crime rate has fallen dramatically. Some might think it was because of the crime bill, but they would be wrong.
Every proponent of some criminal justice policy will claim it's because of their pet policy, three strikes, broken windows, stop and frisk, CompStat, mandatory minimums. But that's all wrong because crime rates went down in other countries, too. So what was happening globally?
Lead abatement, banning leaded gasoline and replacing lead pipes, etc. And of course, it's not proven completely, Correlation is not causation, etc. - but look at this.
And this is true around the world, not just in the US. So of course it makes so much more sense than Broken Windows, etc.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has been on the lead-crime beat for years. So check it out
Over-incarceration is a real problem. It deprives far too many of their liberty and drives racial disparities in more ways than one, depriving children of one or both parents as full-time caregivers, burdening families with lost income & increased costs, costing people their vote
depriving their communities of funding for schools, social programs, and infrastructure funding as prisoners are counted where they are incarcerated, not where they are from in the census...a huge diversion of money from cities to rural areas.
And that's not counting the inhumane and completely evil profiteering on prisoners' calls home and commissary expenditures. It's a racket and preys on families already burdened by the loss of a family member to the prison system.
But I digress.

Michelle Alexander's focus on federal policy was a handy attack on Hillary but overall it diverts reform efforts from where they are most needed - at the state and local level
Thankfully, there's a guy on twitter who is an expert on over-incarceration and racial disparities who has written a great book "Locked In" and who everyone should follow. @JohnFPfaff
John F. Pfaff is far more radical than Michelle Alexander. He proposes that we also reduce sentences for violent crimes and he's right.

A lot of reforms recently have traded shorter sentences for drugs for longer sentences for violent crime so the politicians don't get criticized for being soft on crime. In the long run, this will just get more people in prison longer
The real focus should be on getting better prosecutors - something George Soros has been working on, funding campaigns for prosecutors intent on being more about rehab than incarceration.
I suggest you read Pfaff's book or watch his videos and rethink criminal justice reform to focus locally and on state policy.
And more importantly, stop allowing bad faith attacks such as Trump's recent superpredator lie (Hillary said it, not Biden) and recognize that if a candidate's vision of what will help Black people begins and ends with crime policy, that candidate is racist.

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