January 11, 2019

Barr pushed mass incarceration

ACLU - In 1992, a little less than a year into his new job, Attorney General William P. Barr added to the zeitgeist of “tough-on-crime” policies when he issued the Bush administration’s “24 Recommendations to Strengthen Criminal Justice.” Barr’s harsh approach, which included expanding capacity for pretrial detention and offsetting the cost of such expansion with the labor of prisoners, was distilled by the Office of Policy and Communication and given an unequivocal title, “The Case for More Incarceration.” At the time, there were about 850,000 people incarcerated across America’s state and federal prisons — the highest number to that point.

Barr was an ardent champion of policies that have transformed America into the world’s leading incarcerator, and there’s little reason to believe that his opinions have changed. The Senate Judiciary Committee must inquire as to whether he still believes that prison expansion is the best response to crime. 

Barr’s thesis in “The Case for More Incarceration” wasn’t subtle: “There is no better way to reduce crime than to identify, target, and incapacitate those hardened criminals who commit staggering numbers of violent crimes whenever they are on the streets.” Barr blamed “a small group of hardened, chronic offenders” and “violent predators” for America’s pain.

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