Criminal Justice Reform Has Made it into Both Party Platforms. That’s a Big Deal.

By Natasha Camhi, Brennan Center for Justice
August 1, 2016

Usually party platforms, in all of their densely-written glory, do not make the short list of buzz topics on the election, and their release is not greeted with much fanfare. But this year, in a rollicking and unpredictable campaign season, the politics around the platform are very different. This is particularly true when it comes to criminal justice reform – one of the few areas with bipartisan support.

For decades both parties drove a strong “tough on crime” stance, encouraging more incarceration. In 1968, Richard Nixon’s platform identified “lawlessness” as one of the greatest threats to the country, and many election cycles later George H. W. Bush’s platform stripped rights from those convicted of drug crimes while accusing criminals and their lawyers of dictating federal policy. Likewise, the Democrats’ 1996 platform under Bill Clinton praised mandatory “three-strikes-you’re-out” laws and promised states $8 billion in new funding for prison infrastructure. At the turn of the century, the Democratic Party continued to push “tougher punishments” as a solution for our broken justice system.

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