Criminal Justice

There’s nothing funny about Trump’s troubling policing edicts

During a July speech to police in Long Island, Donald Trump joked that when officers “put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head” that “you can …

Arthur Rizer talks jail reform on KJZZ

R Street Justice Policy Director Arthur Rizer appeared recently KJZZ, a National Public Radio affiliate in Phoenix, Arizona, to discuss how reforms to the nation's jail system can …

Letter: Defense Department 1033 Program and the militarization of police

Letter to House. Letter to Senate. Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members: We are a broad coalition of civil liberties, civil and human rights, and government accountability groups deeply disturbed by …

The key to safer, less costly jails? Reduce pretrial detention

A class-action lawsuit in the 1990s detailed harmful conditions in Maricopa County jails, including feeding inmates contaminated food and keeping mentally ill detainees in solitary confinement. Arpaio's actions ultimately …

Letter: Support for the Civil Forfeiture Amendments to H.R. 3354

September 7, 2017 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives United States Capitol Washington, D.C. 20515 RE: Support for the Civil Forfeiture Amendments to H.R. 3354 YES on Walberg/Cohen #46 YES on Raskin/Sensenbrenner …

Coalition Letter: Civil Asset Forfeiture Amendments to CJS Appropriations

The Honorable Paul Ryan, The Honorable Steve Scalise, The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, The Honorable Pete Sessions September 1, 2017 Re: Civil Asset Forfeiture Amendments to CJS Appropriations Gentlemen: Our organizations have long records in support …

Snitch scandal denies justice, but DA and sheriff blame others

The Orange County public has been sadly tolerant for years of disturbing scandals in its Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office. The reason for this, I believe, is …

President Trump’s police militarization again raises the question: do we want warriors or guardians?

The following op-ed was co-authored by Jonathan Haggerty, a justice policy associate at the R Street Institute. That the Trump administration’s embrace of greater militarization of local police forces grabbed …

Sorry, Jeff Sessions, but we’re just not experiencing a violent crime wave

In Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ world, an explosion of violent crime is persistently bubbling just beneath the surface of American society, ready to spill forth onto the streets. …

Legislature is back and focused on housing, recall and bail

California’s Legislature is back from its recess and legislators kicked off the session by focusing on two highly partisan matters. Assembly Republicans first voted to keep Chad Mayes as Republican …

Ferguson still struggling with racial bias

The following op-ed was co-authored by Daniela Velázquez, a strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. This month marks three years since an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown …

Orange County residents learn the steep price of coddling bad cops

If the Orange County Board of Supervisors votes to appeal the $2.25 million jury verdict recently assessed against the county in the case of a deputy accused of …

R Street’s voting guide for SXSW panels!

VOTING ENDS AUGUST 25!!!! We’ve put together some great policy panels for next year’s SXSW conference in Austin, Texas. BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP to get in the final conference …

A ray of hope for criminal justice reform?

The bipartisan movement toward criminal justice reform that seemed to be gaining ground in 2016 is, unfortunately, having a tougher time this congressional session. But there is one …

Fairy dust, Pandora’s Box … or a hammer

Cathy O’Neil wants to puncture a particular perception of algorithms that views artificial intelligence and other mathematical decisionmaking models as a type of “fairy dust” we can sprinkle over …

Trump’s comments aren’t pro-police; they insult the profession

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street National Security and Justice Policy Director Arthur Rizer. A petty thief nabs a duffel bag full of sex toys and pornography from a …

Juvenile justice reform finally clears its U.S. Senate hurdle

The following post was co-authored by R Street Research Assistant Megha Bhattacharya. It's been 10 years since the expiration of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which created America’s …

To protect and serve or to search and destroy?

The following op-ed was co-authored by Jonathan Haggerty, a criminal justice policy associate at R Street. More than 1,800 M16 and M4 assault rifles, six military-armored vehicles, three mine-resistant …

In policing and teaching, union rules protect workers at expense of public

America’s public school systems are notorious for their rubber rooms. That’s where teachers deemed unfit to work in a classroom pass the time as their disciplinary actions or terminations …

R Street Institute Supports Rep. Collins’ Prison Reform and Redemption Act

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers, With more than 95 percent of prisoners ensured release and re-entry back into our communities upon completion of their sentences, it is …

Coalition letter on U.S. attorneys

Dear Chairman Grassley: On March 21, we wrote to urge you and members of the committee to conduct basic oversight with respect to the president’s nominees to serve as …

LETTER: Support the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein, There are more Americans who cycle through local jails each year than there are people who live in the 11 least populous …

New DOJ asset-forfeiture rules trample basic rights

In a speech Monday to the National District Attorneys Association annual conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the U.S. Justice Department plans to ramp up the use of …

Call to Pass Civil Forfeiture Reform Quickly and Independently

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Chairman Grassley: On behalf of the undersigned organizations dedicated to the protection of civil liberties and private property, we write to express our deep disappointment …

It’s time for our justice system to embrace artificial intelligence

Liberal democracies long have struggled to minimize or eliminate elements of bias in their systems of criminal justice. Maybe justice is just too difficult for humans to administer …

Letter to AG Sessions: Civil asset forfeiture

Attorney General Jeff Sessions U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001   Dear Attorney General Sessions, We write you today out of concern for your recently issued guidance on civil …

Policy study: How California softened its ‘tough-on-crime’ approach

WASHINGTON (July 18, 2017) – California has a long history of pioneering criminal justice reforms. From the 1960s to the early 2000s, such reforms mostly toughened the state’s …

How California softened its ‘tough-on-crime’ approach

California has a long history of pioneering criminal-justice reforms. From the 1960s to the early 2000s, such reforms mostly toughened the state's approach to handling criminals, with some …

Gutting of oversight bill puts kibosh on needed police reform

There are two rules of thumb to keep in mind when following the California Legislature. First, lawmakers love to prattle about pie-in-the-sky issues, such as halting global warming, but …

Jail reform must address mental health, substance dependence

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Policy Associate Jon Haggerty. A hallucinating inmate caught spitting and urinating on the floor of his cell. A woman wildly smearing fecal …

Losing their gun rights with barely a whimper

Gun-rights activists often express the view that Americans will not easily give up their rights to gun ownership even if the laws eventually outlaw — or at least …

LETTER: Alleviating the Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children through Sentencing Reform

To: United States Sentencing Commission From: Pat Nolan, American Conservative Union Foundation, Patricia Allard, Justice Strategies, Jessica Jackson, Cut50, Marc Levin, Right on Crime Coalition, Arthur Rizer, R Street …

Kids shouldn’t be charged as sex offenders

Corey Walgren, a 16-year old honor roll student from Naperville, Illinois, recently stood accused by a school resource officer of some dishonorable behavior: allegedly showing friends a cellphone recording …

LETTER: Support Florida SB 118

Dear Gov. Scott: The undersigned organizations write to voice support for S.B. 118, which both the House of Representatives and Senate have passed unanimously. S.B. 118 is part of an …

Prison unions are punishing California taxpayers … here’s how

If you ever wondered what’s wrong with California’s state government, then mull over this simple example: While California cuts its prison population and staff, it’s increasing the amount of money …

PACE Act would prosecute teen sexting as kiddie porn

Crimes against children, particularly those that involve sexual exploitation, are beyond the pale. But while society needs to make sure it protects children from sexual abuse, recent legislation …

Prison unions punish California taxpayers

If you ever wondered what’s wrong with California’s state government, then mull over this simple example: While California cuts its prison population and staff, it’s increasing the amount of money …

Police misconduct undermines justice and costs taxpayers plenty

News reports last week suggest the city of Oakland may be ready to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the teenage woman at the heart of a sex-abuse …

Hard to remove the politics from the snitch scandal

There are few politicians who have been on the receiving end of my sharp pen more often than county supervisor and former Assemblyman Todd Spitzer. If you don’t …

Loophole lets law enforcement bypass state laws on civil asset forfeiture

Advocates of civil asset forfeiture reform, stymied in recent years at the federal level, continue to make steady progress in the states. Alas, a loophole in current law …

Sessions opts to enforce drug laws Congress fails to address

Critics bemoaning Session's recent guidance to prosecutors are missing the point: It's time for Congress to do its job and overhaul our approach to federal drug policy. Many states …

Bail-reform needed given justice system’s realities

Virtually every American has watched enough TV cop dramas to know about the Miranda warning (“You have the right to remain silent …”) to understand that defendants are …

Letter: Support California S.B. 182

On behalf of the R Street Institute, I write to support Senate Bill 182, the Transportation Network Company (TNC) Single Business License Act. We applaud this bill, which is …

A conversation on ‘Democracy’ with Condoleezza Rice

So many intellectually gifted political figures are about as warm as a slab of granite in a blizzard. As we sat down to discuss her book, Democracy: Stories from …

Sessions’ charging memo underscores need for Congress to pass reform

Attorney General Jeff Sessions' memorandum instructing federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” against defendants signals a desire to return to a tough-on-crime …

What would Jesus do about criminal justice reform?

One of the more noteworthy political shifts of recent years is the degree to which prison reform has become a cause for conservatives. After decades of bellicose rhetoric …

Testimony: Support Texas H.B. 100

Chair Nelson, members, my name is Josiah Neeley and I am the Texas director for the R Street Institute, a nonpartisan research organization that works on issues related …

R Street hosts Justice for Work coalition panel

The R Street Institute hosted an April 17 launch party for the Justice for Work Coalition. Justice for Work is a coalition of organizations spanning the ideological spectrum …

Fixing California’s bloated sex-offender registry

R Street just signed a letter calling for commonsense reform of the California sex-offender registry, based on a bill proposed by our friend and Legislative Advisory Board member …

Letter: Support California SB 421

Dear Sen. Wiener: On behalf of the R Street Institute, I write in strong support of Senate Bill 421. Your bill represents an important first step to fix California's …

Ex-offenders need jobs, not handouts. But there are too many regulatory barriers.

There's a tragic irony at the heart of American criminal-justice policy. While we invest billions of dollars each year to house inmates in state and federal correctional facilities, …

Stop mandating burdensome background check for Uber, Lyft drivers

The following op-ed was co-authored by Jon Haggerty, a research assistant at the R Street Institute. The Bay State has been abuzz this month at news that more than 8,000 Uber and …

R Street launches Justice for Work coalition with April 17 D.C. event

As the bipartisan movement for criminal-justice reform continues to move forward in the states and at the federal level, it's time to reconsider government-imposed barriers to economic opportunity, …

On criminal-justice reform, Alabama should look to Texas

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley recently announced a new initiative aimed at addressing the state's overcrowding problem, with 23,000 prisoners in facilities designed for about 13,000. The “Alabama Prison Transformation …

Ohio and Indiana take different approaches to opioid epidemic

Ohio Gov. John Kasich described drug addiction as "a common enemy" in this week's state-of-the-state address. Kasich highlighted the challenge in terms similar to those laid out by …

Juvenile justice legislation now moves to U.S. House floor

A decade after Congress allowed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act's authorization to expire, legislation to reauthorize the bill is moving to the House floor following today's …

Let ex-offenders hold a job

Getting a job can be a particular challenge for those who have a criminal record. Surveys by the Kauffman Foundation find that between 60 and 75 percent of …

Coalition supports drug sentencing reforms in the Florida legislature

Dear Speaker Corcoran: We write to express our support for drug sentencing reforms currently being considered by the Florida legislature. We and our organizations represent concerned citizens, taxpayers, and …

Shots fired between Sheriffs Association and NRA in Alabama Legislature

"S.B. 24 is not a Second Amendment bill and NRA should have kept their nose out of it," wrote Alabama Sheriffs Association Executive Director Bobby Timmons in an …

R Street’s criminal justice project goes to SXSW

R Street was busy at the recent South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, including co-hosting a series of discussions on criminal justice reform with the Texas Public Policy …

Cameron Smith talks prison reform on Birmingham Talk 99.5

Filling in as host on the Andrea Lindenberg Show, R Street State Programs Director Cameron Smith discussed Rachel Maddow's "big reveal" on Donald Trump's taxes, as well as …

Testimony to Texas House Committee on Transportation

Chair Morrison, members, my name is Josiah Neeley and I am the Texas director for the R Street Institute, a nonpartisan research organization that works on issues related …

We need better solutions than ‘big government’ incarceration

Many Alabama politicians pride themselves on being "tough on crime." If we don't get a lot smarter about criminal justice, the "tough" stance is going to be a …

How to reduce juvenile crime: Use separate courts

The following op-ed was co-authored by Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute. As budget-strapped state legislatures seek ways to spend taxpayer dollars more effectively and efficiently, …

Sheriffs shouldn’t profit off our Second Amendment exercise

Imagine if an Alabama politician introduced legislation that required citizens to pay a fee in order to attend church. He or she wouldn't be a politician for very …

Legislators should stop mandating how Uber conducts background checks

After several years of tumultuous debate, the big questions surrounding the basic legality of ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber have essentially been resolved. In most major American cities, we …

Technology has already created innovative solutions for our bloated jail populations, we just have to implement them

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Research Associate Jon Haggerty.  On any given day, roughly 750,000 people are locked up in American jails. Indeed, one-in-three incarcerated persons …

Is Anaheim police fracas the result of ‘blue privilege’?

Everyone who watched the video of the recent fracas between an off-duty Los Angeles police officer and a group of teens in front of his Anaheim home should …

Jersey’s new ridesharing law should put New York on notice

With Gov. Chris Christie’s signing of legislation outlining a regulatory framework for ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft, New Jersey became the 36th state to legalize and …

Criminal justice reform takes center stage at CPAC

The right end of the political spectrum historically has favored getting tough on crime and increasing criminal penalties as a solution to rising crime rates. But to be …

Gorsuch v. Overcriminalization

Much of the media attention to date surrounding President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has centered on the judge’s views of originalism, separation of powers, administrative law, …

Pot shop reinstatement is a black eye for police

If you’re wondering why police officers sometimes lose the trust of the communities they serve, forget about the overheated rhetoric from Black Lives Matter and focus instead on …

Trump spite leads to defense of idiocy

The leader of the California Senate recently used his closing remarks in a Senate hearing to downplay how concerning it is if illegal immigrants engage in identity theft, …

The administration’s bad start on civil asset forfeiture

It appears that President Donald Trump has officially taken a position on civil asset forfeiture. This week, the president offered to help “destroy” the career of a Texas …

Latest DA scandal cries out for far-reaching reform

The government’s foremost responsibility is to administer a system of justice. Without a just system — due process for the accused, trustworthy trials, fair-minded judges, police and prosecutors …

Reagan’s ‘city on a hill’ meets Trump’s immigration order

We have indeed arrived at another time for choosing. We must answer one question: Will we advance liberty or sound its retreat? The emotional response to President Donald Trump's executive …

Newport deal shows how pensions are rigged against taxpayers

  A former Newport Beach deputy police chief’s parting pension deal may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of his lifetime — and serves as …

Ohio and Michigan both kick off 2017 with asset-forfeiture reform

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, opened the new legislative session last week by declaring the legislative branch's job was to improve quality of life for all Ohioans. …

What a relief: Rohrabacher can retreat to his ‘safe space’

Conservatives love to mock liberal college students who clamor for “safe spaces,” where they can hide from ideas that run contrary to their politically correct sensibilities. Yes, these …

Six quick takes on President Trump’s speech

Thank you for making your speech short. Really, the days when folks enjoyed hearing long orations have passed. I am glad you thanked the Obamas for being "magnificent" to …

A new conservative approach to jail reform: police diversion

There's no shortage of innovative methods states have explored to divert offenders away from jail and toward treatment-based solutions, whether it be through deferred prosecution, veterans' courts or, …

Meet the UA law professor who joined 1,423 colleagues opposing Jeff Sessions

Nobody is surprised that more than 1,400 law professors from across the nation signed a letter opposing Sen. Jeff Sessions's nomination for attorney general. I'd frankly be more …

O.C. legislator overstates law, but his column goes viral

California Republicans face a discouraging dilemma, as GOP numbers wither in the state Capitol. Democrats gained supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, which leaves the remaining Republicans …

Criminals in 2017 may have to commit crime like it’s 1999

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Criminal Justice Director Arthur Rizer.  Las Vegas will be inundated with 150,000 tech geeks this weekend flocking to the Consumer Electronics Expo, …

The Democrats’ successor to Hillary

Republicans preparing to deal with a potentially rebuilt Democratic Party in 2020 ought to take solace in at least one of the names bandied about as an up-and-coming …

Seven bold, probably unpopular, political predictions for 2017

At the end of 2016, social media buzzed with Americans intentionally sharing their unpopular opinions. While I wasn't aware that anyone on Twitter or Facebook ever held back …

Raft of new state laws are going–or have gone–into effect

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed 898 bills into law last year. Most take effect Jan. 1, but others go into effect in coming years. The majority of new laws deal …

Autonomous vehicles could change everything you know about traffic stops

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Senior Fellow Ian Adams. A driver’s license is a rite of passage. Unfortunately for many drivers, so too is one’s first …

For-profit policing undermines confidence in justice system

The following op-ed was co-authored by Alyse Ullery, a criminal justice policy advisor based in Austin, Texas. Card-reading devices that allow law enforcement to both check and seize the balance …

FBI fingerprinting for Uber and Lyft in Maryland would do more harm than good

Maryland is precariously close to being Uber-less, thanks to a requirement that, as of Dec. 15, all drivers must submit to background checks that include FBI fingerprinting [“Uber …

Santa Ana’s sanctuary policies are just symbolism

I took a photograph years ago of downtown Santa Ana for a magazine article I had written about the city. When I raised the camera to my eye, …

New legislative session puts bail-bonds industry under microscope

At a press conference in the Capitol Monday morning, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom explained that, although he has long championed various reforms to the state’s criminal-justice system, …

Ruling casts doubt on fairness of OC ‘justice’ system

The California Court of Appeal’s 53-page ruling late last month in the ongoing jailhouse “snitch” scandal was the latest court rebuke of the local “justice” system. The blowback …

The Ever-Changing Bogeyman: How fear has driven immigration law and policy

The attached policy study appeared first in Vol. 77 of the Louisiana Law Review.  The campaign for the Republican nomination for the American presidency in 2015 and 2016 has …

Police-reform spotlight shines on the local level

The presidential campaign focused some attention on the long-simmering debate over policing and the appropriate uses of force, but as is typical with national campaigns, the nuances got …

Lou Correa’s opportunity in Washington

In the 1939 movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Jimmy Stewart portrays an idealistic man from a Western state who is appointed to fill a U.S. Senate seat. …

The case for criminal justice reform in lame duck

The following op-ed was co-authored by R Street Outreach Manager Nathan Leamer. With just a few weeks remaining in the 114th Congress, members are returning to Capitol Hill to take …

Cybercrime and the war on digital free speech

The internet is increasingly a target for those who want to silence speech. An Oct. 21 cyberattack rendered social media sites like Twitter and Reddit and news sites like …

R Street’s priorities for the next administration

The incoming Trump administration will inherit numerous challenges that must be dealt with in year one, such as overwhelming shortfalls in the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and debt …

Bail reform tops criminal-justice efforts in next legislative session

California has long been known as a law-and-order state, particularly following the crime spikes of the 1980s. The state passed the toughest “three strikes” law in the nation …

Make Congress great (or at least relevant) again with criminal justice reform

With a disapproval rating hovering around 80 percent, the 114th Congress is on track to be among the least productive in history. But with the end of a …

California voters defy trend – by voting as expected

Whereas the national election results shocked and surprised pollsters and many media observers, California’s results from Election Day conformed almost exactly to pre-election polls and predictions. Some of …

California misses another electoral wave

It’s hard to overstate the significance of Donald Trump’s improbable presidential victory Tuesday, yet the GOP tide barely fazed the nation’s most populous state. Democrat Hillary Clinton won …

Ballot measures would legalize pot, end death penalty, create single-payer health care

While this year’s explosive presidential politics have drowned out battles at the state level, voters across the country nevertheless face a daunting number of weighty ballot questions on Nov. …

Competing death-penalty measures revive old feud

Thirty years ago, California voters did something unprecedented (and not seen since): They bounced Chief Justice Rose Bird from the state Supreme Court. Two other state high-court justices …

A chance to fix civil asset forfeiture

Law enforcement’s ability to seize money and property without evidence of a criminal act is known as civil asset forfeiture. This favored method of police across the nation …

Sex offender registries need reform

Twenty-five years ago, with activist Patty Wetterling by his side, Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson signed America's first law establishing a public registry system for sex offenders. The law, …

‘Demilitarize’ the police?

Policing has always been a difficult job. It has recently become more so. On a daily basis, officers around the country find themselves yelled at, protested against, and …

Private eye’s guilty plea offers hope for accountability

At first glance, high-profile police controversies each generally present themselves as isolated events. Various police shootings have been in the news, and have sparked angry protests. The Associated …

Do Less Harm: The vapid opposition to vaping

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, hates e-cigarettes. The devices, he says, are little more than an evil plot, "the new frontier in tobacco companies' quest to get kids addicted …

Gov. Jerry Brown signs host of significant legislation

The 2016 legislative season is officially over, with Gov. Jerry Brown having signed 900 bills while vetoing 159 byFriday’s deadline. Some of the recently signed bills are far-reaching and will …

Crime is still at historic lows

The following op-ed was co-authored by Jason Pye, director of communications for FreedomWorks. Some are playing up news stories or writing editorials with clickbait headlines featuring violent crime as …

Policing is a profession: You don’t get to pick and choose whom you serve and protect

Since the National Football League's kneeling controversy started, several police organizations around the country have stated they would not protect individual players or whole teams until all the …

Much ado about nothing? The phantom U.S. crime wave

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its much anticipated annual crime report this week, which within hours became fodder for both candidates in the first presidential debate. While …

Do Less Harm: The vapid opposition to vaping

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, hates e-cigarettes. The devices, he says, "are little more than an evil plot, the new frontier in tobacco companies' quest to get kids addicted …

California’s moral superiority complex

I was drinking a beer recently in a bar in a small northern California town when a woman came in and demanded to know if any of the …

DEA’s kratom battle another misstep in war on drugs

In their infinite wisdom, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is expanding the war on drugs this week to include kratom, a medicinal plant seen by many as a …

Yet one more unimportant article about Colin Kaepernick

How many “real” news stories are transpiring as I write this, the umpteenth unnecessary opinion piece about Colin Kaepernick and his protest to kneel during the national anthem? …

Gov. Brown mulls bills overseeing psychotropic drugs for foster kids

California’s foster-care system has long been plagued with unaddressed problems, but a recent exposé about the system’s alleged over-prescription of psychotropic drugs has propelled the Legislature into action. Gov. …

Anaheim’s parks program raises surveillance debate

On Tuesday, Anaheim became the latest in a growing list of California cities to install police-monitored cameras in public places — in this case, three public parks. The …

Criminal justice reform doesn’t have to mean ‘soft on crime’

The phrase "criminal justice reform" is loaded with emotional impact. To some, the words translate to "soft on crime," which has been a political mantra and damning epithet …

Criminal-justice reform is no boon to illegal aliens

A common avenue of attack against criminal-justice reform, particularly its mandatory-minimum provisions, is to invoke the bogeyman of illegal immigration. The argument generally suggests that incarcerated aliens would …

Coalition supports Chairman Goodlatte and the House Judiciary Committee’s criminal justice reform efforts

Dear Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McCarthy, Majority Whip Scalise and Chair McMorris Rodgers: The undersigned organizations and individuals are writing to voice our support for the Sentencing Reform Act …

House Freedom Caucus should support justice reform this fall

The following op-ed was co-authored by Jason Pye, director of communications for FreedomWorks. Recently, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gave a much-needed boost to efforts in the U.S. House to pass …

Criminal-justice reform won’t be a boon to illegal aliens

A common avenue of attack against criminal-justice reform, particularly its mandatory-minimum provisions, is to invoke the bogeyman of illegal immigration. The argument generally suggests that incarcerated aliens would …

What if you were mistakenly placed on a ‘watch’ list?

In the 1985 dystopian science fiction movie, “Brazil,” the plot centers on the authorities’ apprehension of an innocent man named Archibald Buttle. He was mistaken for the outlaw, …

Letter to CPUC on fingerprinting requirements

Dear California Public Utilities Commission, On behalf of the R Street Institute, I respectfully would like to offer comments on the commission’s consideration of a rule requiring fingerprinting as …

Police Violence: The symptoms of deeper societal issues?

The rash of police-on-civilian and civilian-on-police violence has once again brought to a boil the question of why a nation founded on the very idea of limited government …

New DOJ views on private prisons, bail show reform trend

From BNA Criminal Law Reporter: “We're going to see a trend because there isn't a lot happening in Congress,” said Arthur Rizer, director of criminal justice policy at R Street …

OC legislators help secure crucial ‘liberty’ reform

Last September, the state’s most powerful law-enforcement unions and lobbyists descended on the Capitol and derailed a sensible reform measure that had been sailing through the Legislature with …

A welcome victory in the fight against asset forfeiture

From Reason: The California Assembly on Monday approved one of the most significant civil-liberties reforms of the legislative session. Remarkably, the bill—to put limits on the controversial practice of …

Shock: Legislature does right thing on a liberty issue!

Our left-leaning Legislature isn’t exactly known for its commitment to protecting the constitutional liberties of the citizenry, which is an understatement of great magnitude. When I speak to …

The impact of silence: The incarceration of children who have committed no crime

The following op-ed was co-authored by Marcy Mistrett, CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice. Congress has recessed for the summer without passing any justice reform—not in the criminal nor juvenile-justice …

Civil libertarians and police embrace asset-forfeiture compromise

From Public CEO: The California Assembly on Monday approved one of the most significant civil-liberties reforms of the legislative session. Remarkably, the bill – to put limits on the …

Civil libertarians and police embrace asset-forfeiture compromise

The California Assembly on Monday approved one of the most significant civil-liberties reforms of the legislative session. Remarkably, the bill – to put limits on the controversial practice …

Federal oversight of snitch scandal is long overdue

The latest twist in the ongoing “snitch” scandal involving Orange County’s district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department further reinforces critics’ fears about problems in the nation’s criminal justice …

No, a new study does not say Uber has no effect on drunk driving

The first rule of science journalism is to read the study before you write about it. Alas, that hasn't stopped media outlets from routinely misreporting, exaggerating or exercising …

Porn isn’t for kids, but we don’t seem to care

America isn't doing enough to protect our children from the impacts of pornography. As the father of three young boys, I know my sons are going to encounter …

Marking kids for life on sex offender registries

The following op-ed was co-authored by Nicole Pittman, director of the Center on Youth Registration Reform, and Stacie Rumenap, president of Stop Child Predators. For decades, our country has been putting …

Unions are root cause of policing problems

Even before the chilling murders of police officers in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Kansas City, most conservatives had been rallying around the “boys in blue,” defending law enforcement …

Police debates need more focus on policy, not emotion

The latest debate over policing understandably has become an emotional one, following the horrific murder of five police officers in Dallas and the deeply disturbing videos of police …

As my sons slept, was their country tearing itself apart?

That night, my three boys slept peacefully down the hall. I couldn’t. Sitting in a dark room, the television casting an eerie electric glow, I watched news coverage …

Under control, for now

Is crime spiraling out of control in America? Are we letting too many dangerous people out of prison and jail? Is the nation retreating from the policies that …

Another revolting attack on our liberties

During a recent stroll around the west steps of the state Capitol, I eyed a group of “Yes California Independence Campaign” handing out the state flag. The flag …

Curbing civil asset-forfeiture abuse

An encouraging legislative development of recent years can be found in the way policymakers in Congress and across the states continue to pursue criminal-justice reforms in a bipartisan …

Democrat sit-in protests Constitution’s due process on gun rights

Congressional Republicans are arguing the merits of constitutional Due Process while Democrats are staging a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives to champion a Bush-era …

The American Civil Liberties Union rightly rejects the No Fly List for gun control

Even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) thinks there's a problem using the No Fly List to prohibit gun purchases. According to ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi, "The …

The FBI isn’t Santa Claus: Fix your lists and check them twice

The recent tragedy in Orlando has set off yet another contentious debate over the issue of gun control. On a June 13 conference call Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., …

How do you explain the Orlando massacre to your kids?

"Daddy, why are all those police lights on TV?" My family and I were eating lunch in Birmingham, and my oldest noticed the CNN broadcast on one of the …

Recommendation to: Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice

From the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice: Sources: “Raised on the Registry, The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the US,” Human Rights Watch, 2013; …

How Congress should proceed on the Kelsey Smith Act

In June 2007, 18-year-old Kelsey Smith was tragically abducted and murdered in Kansas. For various reasons, it took four days for law enforcement to access the location coordinates …

Comments on the supplemental guidelines for juvenile registration under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act

We, the undersigned organizations, represent a diverse and bipartisan alliance called “Just Kids.” Our national coalition is made up of legal experts, child advocates, juvenile justice policy experts, …

More harassment of gun owners in California

From Reason: The latest round of gun-control bills speeding through the California legislature should offer a reality check to those of us who own firearms: Democratic leaders will never …

Illinois moving to loosen occupational licensing rules for ex-offenders

When persons with “backgrounds” in Illinois want to turn their lives around, "we want them to be as productive as possible as quick as possible," state Rep. Marcus …

More harassment of gun owners by Sacramento

The latest round of gun-control bills speeding through the Legislature should offer a reality check to those of us who own firearms: Democratic leaders will never be satisfied …

Dope by mail: Another challenge for the Postal Service

The U.S Postal Service’s financial and other operational challenges regularly are in the news. Less well-known is its illicit drug problem. Thanks to the internet, anyone can now become …

Lehrer at the Aleph Institute’s ASKS Summit

R Street President Eli Lehrer took part recently in the Alternative Sentencing Key Stakeholder (ASKS) Summit, hosted in Washington by the Aleph Institute. Eli moderated a panel March …

Some in GOP yield to Sacramento’s secrecy lobby

In one of my favorite “Far Side” comic strips, the first panel offers what people typically say to dogs: “OK Ginger I’ve had it. You stay out of …

Treat kids like kids until 18

The following oped was coauthored by Marcy Mistrett, chief executive officer at the Campaign for Youth Justice. The state Senate should be ashamed of itself. For the second time in …

Stop trying Michigan 17-year-olds as adults

In states across the nation, some bold Republican lawmakers are putting aside party affiliations and joining with Democratic colleagues in a bipartisan effort to reconsider previously accepted “tough …

People deserve second chances, even in the insurance industry

Two years ago, the online health-insurance broker and human-resources portal Zenefits hired an insurance agent with a criminal record. Now the San Francisco Chronicle is attacking the firm …

Testimony on ‘raising the age’ in Louisiana

Thank you Chairman Gary Smith, Vice Chairman Ronnie Johns and the rest of the committee for allowing me to submit the following testimony in support of S.B. 324, …

A conservative case to ‘raise the age’ in Michigan

In recent years, conservative policymakers in states across the nation have come to question whether the one-sizefits-all “tough on crime” approaches adopted in the 1980s and 1990s are …

The Washington Post’s ‘Reefer Madness’ campaign against booze

I enjoy Christopher Ingraham’s writing for The Washington Post. His WonkBlog posts are data-heavy, which makes them interesting. Like Ingraham, I have serious concerns about America’s long war on …

Anti-party law turns innocent kids into criminals

Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker got into GOP politics because of his “belief in individual liberty, limited government and a free market,” according to the party’s …

Juveniles don’t belong on the sex-offender registry

At the age of 17, Mark O. of Grand Rapids, Mich., got his then 15-year old girlfriend pregnant. Taking responsibility for his actions and agreeing to provide support, …

R Street Institute statement on Senate passage of S.B. 1044

The following statement can be attributed to R Street Institute Florida Director Christian Cámara regarding the passage of S.B. 1044 on civil forfeiture reform: S.B. 1044 is a commonsense …

Justice for Juniors: How should courts deal with kids and crime?

How should we treat children who get into trouble with the law? For more than a century, American attitudes have shifted between sometimes-wild extremes. Between the 1970s and early …

Heroin in Ithaca

Ithaca, New York—an Ivy League town that proudly styles itself America's "most enlightened city"—provides a home for plenty of unusual ideas from the political left. The most recent …

Fixing South Dakota’s offender registries

My name is Eli Lehrer and I’m here to testify on H.B. 1244. I am president of the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank headquartered in Washington. I …

Don’t blame business for government mandates

People rightly rail against the evils of big government. But just as serious a problem is what might be called "hidden government," when regulation becomes so pervasive that …

Fingerprint background checks: not as reliable as you think

The Austin City Council last month passed rules mandating fingerprint-based background checks for prospective ridesharing drivers. These new requirements were part of wider changes to Austin's ordinance regulating …

Reform the sex-offender registry

In 1972, at the age of 21, Phillip Garrido had his first arrest. The charge: sexual assault of a minor. Four years later, he kidnapped and raped Katherine …

The awkward truth about President Obama’s ‘tough’ actions on guns

When President Barack Obama announced his intent to impose unilateral gun control measures through executive fiat, Republicans loaded for bear—or at least, aggressive overreach from a lame duck president. The …

Rethinking sex-offender registries

The attached was published originally in National Affairs Issue Number 26 - Winter 2016.   As they bicycled and scootered back to their homes from a trip to the local …

Liberated women and contraband cocktails: Thanks, Prohibition!

In case you missed it, the 82nd anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal (1920-1933) was Dec. 5. I myself celebrated with a glass of bourbon and a few microbrews at …

Did Chris Rock have the answer to gun violence?

I love Chris Rock. Or I should probably say, I love Chris Rock, the standup comedian. The record of Chris Rock, the actor and filmmaker, is decidedly more mixed. …

Gun violence, control and the left’s true intentions

For America's political left, the problem in San Bernardino, Calif., wasn't terrorism. It wasn't pure evil perpetrated by extremists. Many liberals see the fundamental cause of the murders …

Could restitution play a role in criminal justice reform?

It is widely acknowledged that the United States has a problem with mass incarceration. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the nation has more than 1.5 million …

How not to be Paul Krugman

One of my favorite bloggers is Scott Alexander of Slate Star Codex. In a recent post, Scott wrote about the inability of small children to conceive that other …

Ohio dodged a bullet on ‘legal’ pot

Ohio voters last week voted down legalized recreational marijuana use, but the state also may be taking a first step toward exploring the medical research and ameliorative capability …

The ninja are among us

Ninjas. Just the word can send a shiver down one's back. Originating in feudal Japan and reaching their peak during the Sengoku era that spanned the 16th and 17th …

Right reform for the prison system

As recently as 1990, America’s federal prison system contained too few inmates and sent many serious criminals away for sentences that were too short. In recent years, however, …

Support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

We are writing to voice our support for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S.2123). As conservative and faith-based organizations, we applaud your thoughtful deliberations resulting …

Asset-forfeiture reform: No more margarita machines!

"We can neither confirm or deny if we have the mayor’s possessions." That was reportedly the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento to Stockton, Calif. Mayor …

Keep kids off the sex-offender registry

It’s time to rethink the wisdom of including juveniles on sex-offender registries. There is abundant evidence—reviewed in a new paper from my organization—that the social costs far outweigh …

The social costs of juveniles on sex-offender registries far outweigh benefits

WASHINGTON (Sept. 29, 2015) – The net social cost of applying sex-offender registration and notification laws to those who commit offenses as juveniles could be as high as …

The costs and benefits of subjecting juveniles to sex-offender registration and notification

Every state and territory in the United States has registration and notification laws that apply to adults convicted of, and juveniles adjudicated delinquent for, certain sex offenses. Most …

Of course federal agencies hate search-warrant requirements for email

Unsurprisingly, witnesses who testified today before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act stressed that the law, passed before the down …

North Carolina boy charged with possessing indecent pictures of himself

A 17-year-old North Carolina quarterback is charged with possession of sexual images of a minor. The minor is himself. But he is being charged as an adult. So …

Take kids off the sex-offender registries

At age 10, Maya R. did something that would disturb just about anyone: “Me and my step-brothers, who were ages 8 and 5, ‘flashed’ each other and play-acted …

Ohio considers the crony side of cannabis

Ohio produced the first airplane pilot and the first man on the moon. This week, we are blessed with the consensus No. 1 preseason pick of college football …

Ant-Man: A hero for criminal justice reform?

Last weekend, I managed to talk my wife into seeing Ant-Man, Marvel's latest superhero movie. Not exactly at the top of anyone's superhero pantheon, to the extent the …

Coalition letter to Sen. Cardin on private prisons FOIA loophole

We, the undersigned 20 organizations committed to transparency and open government, write to thank you for your concern with the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) …

Alabama’s budget breakdown

Contrary to recent political fear mongering, Alabama has enough money to pay its bills. All the state needs is leaders willing to make tough choices. Projected at over $6.2 billion, the …

A few weeks into the legislative session, here are the most important issues facing the Alabama Legislature

With the Alabama Legislature in full swing, both the Senate and House have released their respective agendas. Those agendas usually reflect priorities that legislators are relatively confident they …

For 2015, it’s a world on fire, and we’re living in it

In the words of the immortal bard, Billy Joel, "We didn't start the fire. It was always burning since the world's been turning." Over the last year or …

Fear and loathing at Columbia Law

It isn’t the "stupid American voters" that are the problem in this country, unless you count the crazies manifesting their unhappiness this week that the fellow who promised …

Alabama’s state budget, math, politics, and other mysteries

Alabama finds itself in a budget crisis...again. The fundamentals of Alabama's budget woes are nothing new. Alabama has two major state budgets, the Education Trust Fund and the …

Tipping the hat to all the veterans

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States and the president -- apparently no longer particularly mindful of the optics of his role as commander-in-chief -- is in …

Does simply calling for Judge Fuller to resign send the right message about domestic violence and the federal bench?

In August, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller was arrested for assaulting his wife and charged with misdemeanor battery. The Atlanta Police report noted that Fuller's wife "explained that …

What the peanut salmonella case teaches us about overcriminalization

Brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell — the company owner and buyer at the center of the salmonella-tainted peanut scandal that killed nine people in 2008 and 2009 — …

Alabama’s leaders can reform prisons now or lose control waiting for political cover

This past week, I had the privilege of serving on a panel discussing Alabama's prison woes at the Faulkner Law Review's Annual Symposium in Montgomery. The discussion highlighted …

Scary armored vehicles aren’t the biggest danger of police militarization

The problem of police militarization has been in the news for more than a week, as the city of Ferguson, Mo. continues to deal with the aftermath of …

On politics, prosecutions and public perspective

On Aug. 15, 2014, a grand jury in Travis County, Texas, indicted Governor Rick Perry for abusing his official capacity and for coercion of a public servant. The criminal …

Don’t intervene in Azeroth: Thieves in MMOs shouldn’t face criminal charges

While the world reels from the Ebola epidemic, the instability in Gaza and the intensifying tensions between Russia and Ukraine, one British politician seems to have put his …

New York Times’ call for marijuana legalization advances harm reduction

A milestone in the fight for harm reduction was reached on July 28, when the New York Times formally endorsed the legalization of marijuana. A Times editorial, "Repeal …

Rand Paul and Cory Booker take a step in the right direction on criminal-justice reform

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., deserve a lot of credit for the REDEEM Act they're putting forward in the Senate. The proposed law, which would …

Conservatives support Smarter Sentencing Act

June 5, 2014 The Hon. Harry Reid U.S. Senate 522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Dear Sen. Reid: We are writing to urge you to advance the Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410), …

New York Times prison problems

A new study from the National Academies strongly suggests that we should reduce the number of people in prison and jail and make it easier for them to re-enter …

Clemency for drug offenders?

President Obama deserves some real credit for his intention to offer clemency to a number of drug offenders. Executive clemency powers have been greatly underused in recent years. …

Criminal-justice reform and federal funding

If you need evidence of how much conservative thinking about crime has changed over the past few decades, look no further than the crowd gathered for last week's …

In search of ‘Mr. Republican’

Who will be the next "Mr. Republican"? While the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination gets underway, there is another, more informal race going on as well. …

Join AFF and R Street’s Lori Sanders for a panel on the right’s response to poverty

Yesterday, the Washington Post published a damning chart examining the War on Poverty. The chart showed the poverty rate's fluctuations over the last 50 years, once taxes and …

Chris Christie and the ‘failed war on drugs’

What would you do if you were a high-profile governor caught in the midst of a pseudo-scandal, with the national news media hanging on your every word? Here’s …

Handouts aren’t enough

Conservatives, for the first time in quite a while, are beginning to take the issue of poverty seriously. Tea party figures like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee have …

Lehrer talks ‘ban the box’ on WBAL

R Street President Eli Lehrer was on WBAL Radio in Baltimore, Md., to discuss his recent Huffington Post piece on proposals to "ban the box" -- that is …

‘Ban the Box’ goes too far…and not far enough

All over the country, towns, cities and even states have begun a move towards policies that "ban the box" and forbid employers from asking individuals about previous criminal …

The 375 Charts You Must See

For years, blog posts promising "The One Chart That Explains" some complex subject or "Three Graphs Tell You Everything You Need to Know About" a current policy debate …

Salam with Kleiman on crime and punishment

Over at the VICE Podcast, R Street Senior Fellow Reihan Salam interviews Mark Kleiman of the University of California-Los Angeles, author of the book When Brute Force Fails. …

Why New Jersey and Virginia matter to the GOP — and its future with black voters

This week’s election will be an important one for the future of the GOP. In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie is up for re-election, and by all …

Salam talks with director of Let the Fire Burn

Over at the Vice Podcast, R Street Senior Fellow Reihan Salam chats this week with Jason Osder, director of the new documentary Let the Fire Burn. Comprised of …

A just law

Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), one of the most overdue and sorely needed human rights laws in recent …

The sober way to legalize marijuana

As a general rule, Americans don't give much thought to Uruguay, a small South American republic with a population of 3.3 million. But Uruguay has embarked on a …

Eric Holder’s ‘new’ approach to prison and the war on drugs

Attorney General Eric Holder's speech offered more symbolism than substance. Many of the reforms Mr. Holder announced actually have limited impact. The changes in policies relating to mandatory minimum …

Internet access for prisoners?

It will draw howls of protest from politicians and the punditocracy, but the time has come to allow Internet access in jails and prisons. It would open a …

Responsible prison reform

Between 1979 and mid-2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports the number of Americans behind bars rose from roughly 314,000 to about 2 million. Today, the United States …

Salam on treatment of Zimmerman witnesses

R Street Senior Fellow Reihan Salam discusses the treatment of witnesses in the George Zimmerman case on CNN. …

California’s sterilization of female prisoners

Conservatives, particularly religious conservatives, already play a leading role in efforts to reform America’s prisons. Some stomach-churning revelations out of California should give many of these same conservatives …

Reihan Salam on Eliot Spitzer

R Street Senior Fellow Reihan Salam joins Dean Obeidallah, Stephanie Miller and CNN's Erin Burnett to discuss Eliot Spitzer's return to politics. …

The party of prison reform

Michael Hough​—​a second-term Republican state legislator from Frederick County, Md.​—​is about as conservative as blue-state legislators come. He played a prominent role in opposing the state’s new gay …

Finding a path for pot in the post-criminal world

Pot smokers with no medical justification finally broke through in November in a couple of states where citizen-initiated lawmaking allowed the state’s voters to decide to allow recreational marijuana …

Sorry conservatives, the polls are (probably) right

My Facebook feed, email inbox, and the chatter I hear in conservative meetings are all telling me the same thing: the polls -- all of them -- are …

Miami-Dade could repeal 23-year-old pit bull ban

Miami-Dade County voters will go to the polls Aug. 14 to determine the fate of a 23-year-old ban on so-called “pit bull-type” dogs, which could make it the …

Prison rape standards: A start, but only a start

Almost a decade after the law requiring them passed Congress and two years after the original deadline for announcing them, the Department of Justice has, at last, come …

Letter from Ohio: Rethinking crime in the wake of tragedy

As one Ohio community recoils in horror and anguish at yet another incomprehensible multiple school murder and attempts to cope with the aftermath, the public discussion will once …

FIRE Podcast- CPAC Panel: Too many crimes, too many criminals

[podcast]http://redesign.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/cpac_2012_eli_lehrer.mp3[/podcast] In a special dispatch from the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference – held Feb. 9 to 11 in Washington D.C. – this week’s episode of the FIRE Podcast …

The long arm of the law

Emotionally, it's hard for me to defend Jake Baker. At best, the University of Michigan undergraduate is an amateur writer with a repellently misogynistic imagination. At worst, Baker …

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