Compassionate conservatives | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Compassionate conservatives

Posted By on Sun, Dec 24, 2006 at 8:05 AM

A major article in the NY Times magazine spots a political trend -- a kinder, gentler Republican party when it comes to criminals. More emphasis on redemption and rehabilitation.

The G.O.P., the party of Richard Nixon’s 1968 law-and-order campaign and the Willie Horton commercial, is beginning to embrace the idea that prisoners have not only souls that need saving but also flesh that needs caring for in this world. Increasingly, Republicans are talking about helping ex-prisoners find housing, drug treatment, mental-health counseling, job training and education. They’re also reconsidering some of the more punitive sentencing laws for drug possession. The members of this nascent movement include a number of politicians not previously known for their attention to prisoners’ rights. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a former federal prosecutor whom The New Republic once accused of being stained “with the taint of racism,” wants to reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of crack. Referring to mandatory-minimum sentences, Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, whose district is home to Bob Jones University, declared on the floor of the House: “I voted for them in the past. I will not do it again.” Perhaps most remarkably, the outgoing Republican-controlled Congress came tantalizingly close to passing the Second Chance Act, a bill that focuses not on how to “lock them up” but on how to let them out. The bill may become law soon, if Democrats continue to welcome the new conservative interest in rehabilitation.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, of course, though not mentioned in this article, has been a pioneer with his energetic use of the pardon power and advocacy of treatment, not incarceration, for some drug offenders. And, of course, there's his aggressive advocacy for release of the rapist/killer Wayne Dumond.


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