There is a question that is almost existential in nature which is brought to mind by Bernie Sanders’ recent proposal for criminal justice reform. The question is: If somebody invents something that has already been invented, but they didn’t know it, did they actually invent it?
Senator Sanders’ criminal justice reform plan is intended to place the socialist presidential candidate at the progressive vanguard of transforming the criminal justice system in America. New polls show Sanders now in a statistical dead heat in the Democrat primaries, drawing even with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden. Surely, taking this issue will separate him from his political rivals, right?
The problem, of course, is that this issue is already being addressed by the Trump administration, not to mention with the help of Sanders’ own progressive colleagues in Congress with the passage of the bipartisan First Step Act, and the now proposed Second Step Act. Given the recent gaffes of one of Sen. Sanders’ contemporaries also running for president, he would do well to recall that he too voted “Yea” for the First Step Act back in December.
The historical passage of criminal justice reform was the result of a lot of hard work on the part of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and of course the president. The law addresses a number of reforms within the federal prison system targeted at fairer and shorter sentences for non-violent crimes. The Second Step Act will further reduce recidivism rates by addressing formerly incarcerated individuals secure employment upon re-entering society.
To the socialist senator’s credit, there are a number of things in his proposal that cannot be found in the context of either the First or Second Step Acts. And for good reason; his proposals reveal a spectacular break with reality.
Sen. Sanders plan addresses a wide array of sweeping proposals, but thematically, it is based upon the following premises:
- Police officers are too white and inherently racist
- Legalizing drugs and creating free universal healthcare will reduce criminal behavior
- The federal government needs to oversee and track all efforts because at the state and local level, elected leaders and police simply are not capable and cannot be trusted.
With regard to police officers, Sen. Sanders identifies a number of elements on his wish list. Some of these include:
- Diversity and sensitivity training for police officers
- Increased recruitment and hiring of minority officers
- Creating a federally managed database to track officers who use deadly force
- Establish unarmed teams of first responders for certain types of police calls
There are a number of other items that Sanders proposes, but these are representative of the conventional liberal mind that exists in a world of false beliefs and abstract ideals. For starters, law enforcement agencies all over the country are already engaging in the kinds of recruiting practices and diversity training that Sanders wants to mandate and control from the federal level. The debate regarding the effectiveness of such measures aside, his calling for something that is already happening is either grandstanding or a lack of basic awareness.
His idea to create a database to track the use of deadly force sounds innocuous enough. I mean, how can you argue against the acquisition of data? The problem isn’t the data, it is the implication and the bias it creates. Sanders, like so many Americans, believes in the narrative that police are treating encounters with potential criminals like skeet shooting; especially if those suspected of committing a crime are black.
The problem is that the facts just don’t support this inherently bigoted contention.
Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has become America’s preeminent authority on the facts relating to violent crime and police shootings. In a recent piece published in National Review, she refers to new research data that indicates that officers of color are just as likely to shoot people of color as are white officers. She also points out that black citizens are statistically much more likely of being fatally shot by someone from their own community than they are by a police officer. Translation: Bernie Sanders’ pandering may sound good, but it won’t help solve a problem.
His proposal to send in unarmed first responders is less concerning in terms of solving a problem than it is in potentially creating one. Any patrol cop in any city in America who routinely gets dispatched to a scene will tell you they never know what they will encounter once they arrive. Sanders’ idea to use unarmed people to help reduce the rare incidents of non-justified police shootings can only lead to those first responders becoming shooting victims themselves. Guns don’t kill people; naïve, idealistic policies from leftist politicians and social planners kill people.
As they relate to drugs and crime, the presidential hopeful’s proposals are part utopic and part Woodstock. They include legalizing and taxing marijuana sales (Woodstock) and then spending that money on more failed social programs, free inpatient and outpatient healthcare (Utopic) for substance abuse, and legalizing safe injection sites and needle exchange centers. All of this would be federally overseen and bureaucratized. None of it would address the fundamental drivers that lead people down the path of addiction.
President Trump has made real progress in addressing the important issue of criminal justice reform and has done so by having to stand up to his own party which historically did not embrace such efforts. He is continuing his work through the Second Step Act. There is a true art of the deal involved in bringing Republicans and Democrats together on this. It requires compromise. Senator Sanders’ summoning the ghosts of FDR and LBJ to propose big government solutions is not helpful.
His plans are nothing more than socialist ad copy.
If Sanders really wants to help address prison reform, he should take a deep breath, relax, and keep voting “Yea.” Thanks to President Trump, Jared, and Ivanka, they’ve got this one covered and on track.
Charlie Kirk is the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, the nation’s largest and fastest growing conservative youth organization with a presence on over 1,400 college and high school campuses; he is also host of “The Charlie Kirk Show.”