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Some Say Americans Are Voting Smarter About Crime and Punishment

November 15, 2012 10:38:53 am

Last week's election shows that criminal justice reform is gaining traction with voters, says the Huffington Post. It cites marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and California's vote to rein in the state's infamous "Three Strikes" law, passing by a two-to-one margin a measure that now requires the third offense to be a serious or violent felony before the automatic life sentence kicks in.  The vote has significant symbolic value. Three Strikes was a centerpiece of the get-tough-on-crime policies of the 1980s and 1990s. It epitomized the slogan-based approach to criminal justice policy that politicians took during the prison boom.

Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, said he is encouraged by what he saw last week. "I definitely think we're seeing a shift in the public opinion," he says. "This election was really a game-changing event." The results indicate that at least in some parts of the country, the electorate is paying more attention to criminal justice issues, is more willing to hold law enforcement officials accountable and is less credulous when it comes to tough-on-crime posturing. But Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, remains skeptical. "I think it’s too early and too easy to say that the electorate has moved away from its love affair with punishment," Stewart says.

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