LAT Editorial Claims Federal Supervised Release Reform Comes Thanks to Conservative Backing

By Emeline Crowder 

LOS ANGELES, CA – Despite Congress eliminating parole from the federal criminal justice system in 1984, the supervision of people who are leaving federal prison still continues, with about three of four people leaving the system remaining under supervision, according to the Los Angeles Times,

The article notes that, while allowing time for a transitional period to “ensure successful reentry into society” is reasonable, federal supervised release “lasts too long and is too expensive.”

According to the Safer Supervision Coalition, there are more than 110,000 people on federal supervision, which costs the American taxpayers $500 million, and that federal supervised release “makes little distinction between those who are at high risk to break the law again and those at negligible risk.”

The LA Times adds there is growing evidence “the longer supervision goes on, the greater the chance that the former prisoner will get into trouble,” concluding that the period of federal supervision causes a lack of “real freedom” which “interrupts transition to responsible post-prison behavior.”

The Safer Supervision Act, which according to the LA Times is a bipartisan bill, would “shorten post-prison supervision upon showing that public safety would not be negatively affected.”

The Safer Supervision Act is similar to the First Step Act, which was signed into law in 2018 by President Trump, said the Times, explaining this bipartisan bill was a step towards federal criminal justice reform, and “reduced excessive federal prison sentences while encouraging rehabilitation.”

According to the LA Times, the First Step Act was “one of the few truly bipartisan successes in years,”  attributing the success to efforts from CNN commentator Van Jones, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D- New Jersey).

In addition to their efforts, reform-oriented Republicans are also responsible for the success of the Safer Supervision Act, states the LA Times.

According to the LA Times, “criminal justice has deep roots in political conservatism” and that while some liberals could “too easily mislead themselves” into thinking that conservative lawmakers signed on to the First Step Act and are “signing on to the Safer Supervision Act now as reform newbies,” it is far from the truth.

The LA Times emphasizes “criminal justice reform has deep roots in political conservatism,” pointing out that states such as Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina are responsible for some of the most impactful recent reforms.

The LA Times notes many conservative organizations, such as Right on Crime, advocate for reform by drawing on “religious traditions that stress repentance and forgiveness” and because they have a “deep concern over government expansion and waste.”

Reforms in federal supervised release have garnered support from large right wing names such as Newt Gingrich and B. Wayne Hughes, states the LA Times, adding former House Speaker Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, “emphasized the conservative critique of an expansive carceral system.”

Gingrich stated that “our nation’s public safety systems are not immune from the bloat, waste, and ineffectiveness that naturally grows in massive government operations.”

The LA Times states that despite any disagreement on the politics of Gingrich, one has to “appreciate his support for badly needed changes in a criminal justice system.”

In the LA Times article, Gingrich, in his support for reform, joined Malibu billionaire B. Wayne Hughes 10 years ago to write an “op-ed in favor of Proposition 47” in the LA Times.

According to the LA Times, Proposition 47 was a California reform that “right sizes drug offenses and small property crimes” AND that Hughes was one of the biggest supporters of Proposition 47 and “founded and ran an organization that assisted crime victims and former offenders.”

In their op-ed, as the LA Times points out, Hughes and Gingrich noted, “Texas reversed prison expansion in 2007, saved billions of dollars and used the savings on drug treatment and mental health services.”

The Times adds Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Missouri and Mississippi, which are all red states, also adopted reforms in the same vein as Texas.

Hughes and Gingrich, in their support of Proposition 47, urged California voters to seize the opportunity to “do the same” and “stop wasting taxpayer dollars on locking up low level offenders.”

The LA Times wrote “recent election-year posturing has clouded the facts and original politics of justice reform,” and noted some elected Democrats, in fear for their position in political office, have embraced “false connections between smart reforms and periodic spikes in crime.”

On the other hand, as the LA Times notes, some elected Republicans go against the reform principles emphasized by Gingrich, with some such as U.S Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, aiming “to seek backing from law enforcement and other groups that see political gain in embracing fear.”

Support for the Safer Supervision Act has come from all directions, points out the LA Times, citing law enforcement organizations such the Major Cities Chiefs Assn., “prosecutors, defense lawyers, religious groups and progressive reformers.”

Despite the reform brought from the First Step Act, the LA Times notes it made “clear by its name that more reform steps were needed,” and “passing the Safer Supervision Act is a step that Congress ought to take now.”

About The Author

Emeline is a third year undergraduate at UC Davis, studying International Relations and French. She is passionate about law, the criminal justice system and international politics, and hopes to pursue a career in diplomacy in the future. In her free time, Emeline loves to read, craft and hike.

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