Goodlatte, Grassley, Schumer Start Rolling Back Bad Justice Policy They Supported. It was sweeping mandatory minimum policies that prosecutors would use to jail low level drug defendants and make the U.S. number one in the world in the rate of incarceration. It will likely take sweeping justice reform and a continuous roll back on those policies to end over incarceration. The irony: Some of the same lawmakers who voted and supported the worst policies, including mandatory minimums, the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity and other “tough on crime” ideas, are now reversing themselves after 20 years. But they’re doing it slowly. Very slowly.
Two major policy benchmarks that would create a situation where the U.S. houses 20 percent of the world’s prisoners was the war on drugs started under the Reagan Administration in the 1980s and the Clinton Crime Bill of 1994. At the time, judges complained loudly that mandatory minimum policies being pushed into federal law and supported by Goodlatte Grassley and Schumer would cause a spike in incarceration. They did just that.
It’s rare when you see the same lawmakers who enacted bad policy have a chance flip positions. That’s happening right now on justice reform. The problem is the rollback on reform isn’t as fervent as the roll up. How did that happen? The U.S. pays $63 billion a year on incarceration. And when “tough on crime” policies were in vogue in the 1990s on the federal level, much of those policies were xeroxed by state legislatures. The results were predictable.