The issue of how to address crime-how to fight crime, how to best capture and treat criminals, and how to actively prevent future crime-has been one of high contention for decades, and with good reason. The United States has one of the highest per-capita incarceration rates in the world, which puts it at over six times higher than the average of other industrialized nations, with one out of every hundred American adults in prison or jail. Including those on probation or parole, almost 1 in 33 adults is under some type of enforcement by the criminal-justice system. These sort of numbers don’t come cheap. The United States spends more than $80 billion per year on corrections at the federal, state, and local levels. This number has increased by over 4 times over the past 20 years. Senator Paul has stated, “If we’re for families with a mother and father around, we need to be for fixing the criminal-justice system.”
Debates on this topic have ranged from prison reform goals to the death penalty, and many topics in between. While there are many views that span a wide horizon, they are more or less broken down into 2 overall principles that fall within party lines. Republican views on crime tend to be much stricter than Democratic views. Republicans believe in more stringent sentencing laws for felons, supports a database for convicted child murderers, supports courts having the right to use the death penalty, and believes in stronger victim rights and harsher punishments for certain, especially heinous crimes. They view stricter punishment as a deterrent to future crime, and believe this is the best way to address crime and criminals in today’s society. They also wish to see prisons reformed in ways that reflect this idea. They oppose reforms proposed by the Democratic Party that would see better higher education options and more comfortable accommodations in prisons.
Republicans On Stricter Sentencing
First and foremost, Republicans have traditionally supported stricter sentencing for major crimes. They believe that there are some crimes for which criminals should simply not be eligible for parole, and for which the death penalty should be an option to the court. These issues have long been items of party contention. The 2012 Republican Party Platform stated, “Liberals do not understand this simple axiom: criminals behind bars cannot harm the general public. To that end, we support mandatory prison sentencing for gang crimes, violent or sexual offenses against children, repeat drug dealers, rape, robbery and murder. We support a national registry for convicted child murderers. We oppose parole for dangerous or repeat felons. Courts should have the option of imposing the death penalty in capital murder cases.” Furthermore, Republicans believe that there should be “no-frills prisons that make the threat of jail a deterrent to crime…and a Constitutional amendment to protect victims’ rights.” This is not to say that Republicans believe all offenders should go to prison and stay there without question. They support an effective program of rehabilitation, when it is appropriate, and also support of community-based diversion programs for first time, non-violent offenders. However, for violent or repeat crimes, they have generally wished to see strict enforcement and harsh penalties.
While these are the beliefs that have been long-held by the Republican Party, there has been a shift in these stances between the 2012 and 2016 elections. Prison reform and better treatment for prisoners are hot-button issues among millennials – who are the biggest up and coming voting demographic. For this reason, many candidates have been rethinking their stances and supporting laws that would reduce prison time, allow some felons to expunge or seal their criminal records, and even reform federal drug laws. Republicans such as Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush have all spoken out in support of this new Party direction concerning crime. However, this trend is not party-wide, and seems to have been making some internal waves. Some, such as Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, are sticking to the traditional party values, and still wish to see stricter imprisonment laws and harsher sentencing for violent crimes.
Republicans On The Death Penalty
Republicans support the death penalty. Much of this support is to help victims of violent crimes. In the 2004 Republican Party Platform, Republicans stated, “The Republican Party and President Bush support a federal Constitutional amendment for victims of violent crime that would provide specific rights for victims protected under the U.S. Constitution. We support courts having the option to impose the death penalty in capital murder cases.” They also believe that the death penalty deters future crimes, stating “We agree that the best way to deter crime is to enforce existing laws and hand down tough penalties against anyone who commits a crime with a gun.” While many Democrats oppose the death penalty because they don’t believe that it helps prevent crimes, Republicans argue that stricter punishments are, indeed, a deterrent. They prove this by stating “Since Project Safe Neighborhoods was instituted in 2001, hundreds of new federal, state, and local prosecutors have been hired to target criminals who use guns. Prosecutions are up 68 percent, and the violent crime victimization rate is down 21 percent.”
Rand Paul On Crime
Rand Paul is the Republican candidate most identified with calls for criminal-justice reform so far. He recently joined Democratic Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand in sponsoring legislation that would repeal the federal ban on marijuana and co-sponsored the REDEEM (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) Act with Booker. This act would make it easier to expunge or seal criminal records for nonviolent offenses, under the premise that an arrest for youthful infringements such as marijuana possession or joy-riding should not become a permanent barrier to getting a job.
Ted Cruz On Crime
Senator Ted Cruz is another Republican who has come to support prison and criminal justice system reform. He recently joined Democratic Senators Richard Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Cory Booker in introducing legislation that would significantly reduce sentences for many federal drug crimes that passed the Judiciary Committee in 2014 by a vote of 12 to 5. Cruz also co-sponsored legislation with Senator Paul to make the reduction in crack sentencing approved by Congress in 2010 retroactive, and supported cutting the mandatory minimum sentence for a variety of drug offenses by 50 percent.
Chris Christie On Crime
Governor Chris Christie has been another proponent of reform, though his efforts have not been as extreme as those of Paul and Cruz. Christie has called for treatment rather than jail time for most nonviolent drug offenses. He has stated,“We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse.” Christie has also pushed for bail reform, stating that these efforts are “giving nonviolent offenders who often sit in jail because they can’t afford bail a chance to reclaim their lives.”
Jeb Bush On Crime
Jeb Bush has also begun to support the reform of the criminal justice system. Bush, who once called for building more prisons and emphasized “punishment over therapy” for juvenile offenders, now warns that incarceration can turn low-level lawbreakers into hardened career criminals. Bush has also signed onto the Right on Crime initiative, along with Perry.
Scott Walker On Crime
Scott Walker is among the Republicans who still support stricter punishment for crime. Walker ran for governor of Wisconsin as an old-fashioned “law and order” Republican, pledging “to protect our families, our senior citizens and our property.” Walker sponsored bills supporting increased mandatory minimum sentences for everything from perjury to privacy invasion to intoxicated boating. He was one of the leading supporters of Wisconsin’s “Truth in Sentencing” legislation, which ended parole opportunities and increased prison time for many categories of prisoners. As governor, Walker has resisted efforts to liberalize the state’s parole system. The proportion of inmates granted parole has fallen by 50 percent during his time in office.
Marco Rubio On Crime
Senator Marco Rubio also seems to be sticking to the traditionally strict views on criminal-justice issues. “While individuals from a variety of perspectives have made a compelling case that American law has been over-criminalized and over-federalized, reform should not begin with careless weakening of drug laws that have done so much to help end the violence and mayhem that plagued American cities in prior decades.” Rubio stated in an op-ed.
Republicans On Prison Reform
With greater Republican support for reform, President Obama and Democrats are pushing ahead for prison reform. Lawmakers for this reform include representatives from both parties, as well as conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, showing a great compromise on these issues. Obama plans to meet with prison officials and inmates inside a federal penitentiary in El Reno, Oklahoma, in order to “underscore the administration’s focus on the need to reform and improve America’s criminal justice system,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. In March of 2015, Obama shortened the sentences of nearly two dozen drug inmates, including eight who were facing life imprisonment. “With prisons overcrowded by almost 40 percent, and more people behind bars — 2.3 million — than in any other country in the world, sentencing reform simply makes good fiscal and humanitarian sense,” said Mike Riggs of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “The Bureau of Prisons is spending 25 percent of the DOJ budget — much of it on nonviolent drug offenders,” Riggs said. “Do we really need to do that, when we’re trying to fight cyberterrorism and ISIS?” Veteran defense lawyer George Goltzer also believes in the benefits of sentencing reform. “We deal with these guidelines every day, and the catalog of human tragedy is amazing. These are not major drug dealers; these are not the leaders of a cartel,” said Goltzer.
- Republican Party on Crime – On The Issues
- Republican 2016ers Are Rethinking ‘Tough on Crime’ – National Review
- Obama, Democrats and Republicans push for prison reform – New York Post
- Republican Views on the Death Penalty
- Republican Views on the Prison System
- Democratic Views on the Death Penalty
- Republican Views on Drugs
- Democratic Views on Drugs
- Democratic Views on Prison Reform
- Republican Views on Marijuana
- Democratic Party Beliefs
- Republican Presidents
- Donald Trump on Marijuana