- - Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders unleashed his new criminal justice reform proposal in South Carolina a few days ago, and — like all Bernie Sanders proposals — it’s just more evidence that he lives in a fantasy world, divorced from reality.

If enacted, his proposal would end for-profit prisons, abolish the death penalty, end the war on drugs, set national standards for the use of force by police officers, give felons the right to vote, remove questions regarding conviction histories from job and other applications, legalize “safe injection sites” and needle exchanges, legalize marijuana and overturn past marijuana convictions, end cash bail and civil asset forfeiture, ban the prosecution of those under 18 as adults (no matter the crime, including murder), and cut the prison population in half.

The good news is, the proposals above at least fall inside the category of “criminal justice reform.” Reasonable people can disagree, and will, about the efficacy of these proposals, but at least they all can be said to fall within the general vicinity of the discussion area.

The bad news is, those aren’t the only proposals found in Mr. Sanders’ plan. Inside his “criminal justice reform” proposal he’s also lumped in a liberal wish list of policy proposals that have absolutely nothing to do with criminal justice reform, but, maybe, just maybe, could ride in on the coat tails of the proposals that do.

For instance, his proposal would also cancel all existing student debt for public defenders, spend more than $25 billion to “end homelessness,” enact a federal jobs guarantee, guarantee a “Medicare-for-all, single-payer” health insurance program, enact a $15 minimum wage, “ensure all Americans have access to basic financial services through the Post Office,” “create a $10 billion grant program within the Minority Business Development Agency to provide grants to entrepreneurs of color,” and “pass the WATER Act to create a $35 billion fund to remove and replace lead pipes” around the country.



Excuse me, but what does creating a $35 billion fund to remove and replace lead pipes around the country have to do with criminal justice reform? Is Mr. Sanders arguing that the lead made them do it?

Spending $25 billion to “end homelessness?” How would that work, exactly? Free cash handouts to people on the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco? Or moving more taxpayer dollars to politically-connected developers to build low-cost housing … where, exactly?

A federal jobs guarantee? In an era where our economy is performing so well that unemployment is at historic lows? As it stands now, we have more jobs open than workers to fill them. In other words, the labor market is a seller’s market, where workers are in the enviable position of having employers bid against each other for their services, driving wages up. Like many of Mr. Sanders’ proposals, this is a solution in search of a problem.

Even inside the list of policy proposals that actually can be said to deal with some aspect of criminal justice reform, Mr. Sanders’ wish list goes too far.

For example, abolishing the practice of trying some minors as adults, no matter what the crime. A few years ago, in the town where I live, two 17-year-old high school students were discovered plotting a Columbine-style massacre against their fellow students. They were tried and convicted, and each was sent to prison for 40 years. That’s the kind of criminal justice with which I am familiar, and comfortable – and, I’ll bet, so are the vast majority of my neighbors. Sometimes it’s not the age of the criminal that matters, it’s the severity of the crime.

Ending capital punishment and giving felons the right to vote? Strong majorities oppose both — in a  May Hill-HarrisX survey, 69 percent of those surveyed opposed the idea of giving prisoners the right to vote while they’re incarcerated, and Gallup shows majority support for capital punishment going back 50 years.

And, of course … single-payer health care, where all private insurance — including those gold-plated insurance plans won by unions after hard-fought negotiations — is eliminated, no matter how well a plan might serve its patients. It just wouldn’t be a Bernie Sanders policy proposal if it didn’t include that.

Mr. Sanders’ “criminal justice reform” proposal proposes to change a lot more than the criminal justice system. The more he proposes, the more he reveals himself to be divorced from reality, living in a fantasy world.

• Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.

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