With the passage of the First Step Act in Congress, then signed into law by President Trump, we see common ground for politicians across the political spectrum to fix a broken criminal justice system. Whether it’s the over criminalization of low level offenses or the tendency to lock more African-Americans up than other populations, states and the federal government are now about the business of looking at the whole system and trying to rectify past abuses. In many cases armed with new studies and a greater understanding of the disparate impacts that ‘tough on crime’ legislation has had, reform is sweeping the country, often led by the states. These reforms touch on not locking people up in the first place and if they have been locked up trying to figure out paths to true rehabilitation and reform. This involves clean slate initiatives so that minor infractions, long past, do not define a person for the rest of their lives to reforms of probation, parole and cash bail. Our guest, Nila Bala, who served as an assistant public defender in Baltimore for years, is now the associate director, criminal justice and civil liberties and resident senior fellow for R Street, a conservative leaning think tank. She writes often for ‘The American Conservative’ describing why these reform initiatives are part of that tradition in America.
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