Criminal justice reform, long a cause of libertarians and others who respect the rights of citizens, has in the blink of an eye gone from addressing injustices and prosecutorial excess to condoning lawlessness and abandoning government’s fundamental duty to protect citizens’ rights.

Mere months ago, we saw momentum building, as advocates built upon the passage of the First Step Act to press for further positive changes regarding such matters as victimless crimes, mandatory minimums, three-strikes rules, excessive punishments for minor infractions, criminal histories for such things as pot possession, and changes in the use of cash bail.

Suddenly, though, we see more-progressive-than-thou politicians and activists acting as if no one is a criminal.

In New York, the cash bail reforms are being extended to violent offenders.

Progressive darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently marched with a thousand anti-police protestors, and argued against police arresting subway fare-beaters with straw man pap such as, “Arresting people who can’t afford a $2.75 fare makes no one safer and destabilizes our community” (NY City loses a couple hundred million a year to fare beaters). While there are some valid concerns, ignoring lawlessness merely encourages it, makes those who play by the rules feel stupid, and degrades societal behavior in general).

California’s given a free pass to shoplifters, with predictable results.

St. Paul, dealing with a rise in street shootings, nevertheless is eschewing the word “gang” in its efforts, referring to gangs as “violent street groups” instead. Are criminal gangs and gangbangers a maligned and oppressed identity group now, that would reform if only they weren’t mislabeled?

This is a trend that should horrify us. A public policy area that has screamed for attention, “criminal justice reform,” has been turned into “crime excusing.” They’re risking destruction of good and important initiatives.

NY City (and many other municipalities) treat the poor in poor neighborhoods as revenue sources. Police are sent out to levy BS quality-of-life infractions on folks can’t afford to pay those tickets, and who can’t afford the time off work to go fight them. Warrants then get issued, and when they fail to appear for those, more warrants get issued. Eventually, they end up with police records, and lose all sorts of employment possibilities as a result. These are people wronged by the system, and this is one place the system needs to be fixed.

Combine that with much-needed real reforms to the criminal justice system, including the aforementioned, as well as prosecutorial misconduct (and immunity from being busted for it), and, yes, there’s much that we can do to make things more just, especially for the poor. Absolving real criminals is not it, though, but that’s suddenly where the woke crowd is going. Petty theft is still theft. It should be dealt with commensurately, but it should still be dealt with. A shopkeeper has the same property rights as everyone else, and the people who pay their subway fares should not bear the added burden of scofflaws.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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