The dark and gloomy future of criminal law enforcement in the USA

Hoge Raad stelt genzen aan dynamische verkeerscontrole
1 november 2016
The criminal justice reform will continue on a state level
10 november 2016
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It all seemed pretty clear. Economy is doing great, (violent) crime rates are reducing according to FBI statistics 2016 (except Chicago) and Obama is a popular president, even after two elections, who together with his wife, put much effort in the election of Hillary. And in addition to that Hillary Clinton is an experienced politician who beat Trump three times at the presidential debates. But it all turned out totally different. Election Night was, among many other things, form a legal point of view a choice between Donald Trump’s dark and misogynist vision of America as a violent country demanding “law and order” and Hillary Clinton’s vision of an inhumane criminal justice system in need of reform. Maybe her perspective about this reform was inspired by the fact that mass incarceration cost The United States a tremendous amount of money. Maybe she truly beliefs that much of this incarceration is caused by bias and poor execution, employment and drugs and she want to stimulate measures that prevent people from committing a crime and set forward more reduced mandatory sentencing guidelines. The darker vision was largely a figment of the Republican’s imagination but, Trump seems likely to take the election as a mandate to put on the iron gloves.

There is much Trump can do to ruin the legacy of President Obama’s. And he can do this because with the support of Senate he can replace conservative judge Scalia, who died a couple of months ago, and appoint another judge of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court stands on the edge of some major important issues to decide on. Now it is blocked by 4-4-. Trump will change the balance in a more conservative direction and by doing this the Supreme Court will become more than before a political instrument. He can, for example, loosen tighter background checks on gun purchasers and revoke the limits on keeping juveniles in federal solitary confinement. He can repeal Obama’s order to “ban the box” on federal employment applications that identifies those with criminal records, regarded as a barrier for people who have served their sentences in getting back into the work force. His new attorney general could swiftly reverse the Obama-era instruction to prosecutors to charge fewer low-level drug crimes and the recent Department of Justice decision to stop using for-profit prisons. And last but not least Trump’ can put forward criminal charges against the Clinton foundation. Maybe even against her mishandling of emails will be again at stake. In the meantime he can try to dismiss the accusations against for instance his own Trump University. Above all: Trump is the master of settlements.

And if Trump keeps his promises he will turn the machinery of law enforcement against millions of undocumented immigrants. Undoubtedly this all sums up to more violence and more people in jail or prison. Trump’s victory may be fatal to the unusually bipartisan campaign to reduce prison sentences, invest in rehabilitation, and otherwise render the federal justice system more humane and effective. The Republican Party platform adopted at the July convention nods to red states that have reduced prison populations and calls for “mens rea” legislation, which would oblige prosecutors to prove a defendant intended to break the law. Will Trump stick to that? I doubt it!!! In general, Trump’s law-and-order entourage — Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and others — constitutes a virtual counter-reform movement, favoring longer sentences, fuller prisons and militarized policing. His natural allies on Capitol Hill are men like Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who this year blocked even the most incremental reforms. Some reform advocates, who viewed Trump’s rise with a sense of dread, may well opt to turn their attention to the states, where most of America’s criminal justice is practiced, and where officials of both parties have been receptive to alternatives.

Seems to me that the future of criminal law enforcement will be dark and gloomy. It is sad. More than sad. It is deeply worrying.