Criminal Justice Reform

At the most basic level, the role of government is to help keep us safe, while preserving  fundamental rights under the Constitution.

In no other aspect of society is that more important than our criminal justice system. Police. Courts. Prisons. We give them all incredible power over human lives — and we have to get it right.

Unfortunately, from the failed War on Drugs to understandable, but real, over-reactions to the tragedy of 9-11, we have NOT always gotten it right.

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Higher than Russia, China, Mexico, Pakistan or anywhere in Africa. That’s an incredible fact. Not only does it point to very real problems with our criminal justice system, but the sheer dollar cost to taxpayers is ridiculous.

Likewise, regardless of political party or ideology, we cannot ignore the facts about race and criminal justice. A black person in the United States is four times more likely to end up in jail than a white person. That cannot just be explained away. It tells us there is something very wrong.

As it should be, most criminal justice is carried out by the states, and many state legislatures have and continue to enact needed reforms. However, there is much Congress can and should do:

  • First, there are simply too many “federal” crimes. Congress should not make something a federal crime unless it involves interstate or international acts. Politicians in Washington don’t need to outlaw activities that are already crimes under state jurisdiction.
  • Congress should encourage the creation of courts that deal specifically with veterans, substance abuse, mental illness, and others for whom traditional criminal courts cannot offer effective “justice”.
  •  Mandatory minimum sentences and “three strike” laws that tie the hands of the Courts should be revisited. 
  • Prison beds should be reserved for those who present real threats to society — not those who simply cannot pay fines, make bail, or suffer from nonviolent addictions.
  • “Defunding” the police is obviously a ridiculous notion. However, that does not mean police departments, courts and the rest of the criminal justice system should not be held accountable for the tax dollars they spend. Where appropriate, resources should be directed to results-oriented programs and personnel who can reduce harm, keep us safe and focus on real solutions to domestic violence, trafficking, substance abuse, etc.

There are many other steps we must take, but the goal must be to reduce incarceration rates, insure that justice is fair, regardless of race, finances or social status, and insure that our billions in tax dollars are being used effectively to make our communities safer — and better.


Income Inequality and Poverty

We have been waging a “War on Poverty” for decades. It hasn’t worked. Yes, there have been some improvements under various welfare reforms, but too many of our social programs have the effect of locking Americans into a cycle of dependence rather than helping them achieve their dreams for themselves and their families.

In my years as an owner of daycare centers, I have seen it too many times: A single mom gets a job, makes a little money — and loses the benefits she needs to keep climbing the ladder. It shouldn’t “cost” her money to do the right thing. 

America has never guaranteed equal incomes or wealth. What we should be striving to insure is equal opportunity. A child growing up in poverty should have a fair shot at a better life, whether that means access to community college or technical school, or a social safety net that rewards, rather than penalizes, hard work and progress.

Government’s role is not to be our overlord or a nanny. It is to remove unfair obstacles, while providing the basic support every American needs to achieve and take advantage of the opportunities this great nation offers. That’s not socialism. It’s not Big Brother. It’s making sure the American Dream is within reach to all.


Term Limits

In many respects, career politicians aren’t just a problem. They ARE the problem. Americans overwhelmingly support term limits. It is long past time that we enact them. I support a constitutional amendment to limit Members of the House to three terms (six years) and U.S. Senators to two six-year terms.



Parents must be empowered to choose the right education for their children. Not bureaucrats. Not teachers unions. School Choice, funding that follows the child — not the school district, and fewer federal mandates will allow us to prepare our young people for the economies of today and tomorrow, rather than the 1950’s.


Endless Wars

We sent our young men and women into Afghanistan 19 years ago to find Osama Bin Laden and destroy the terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11. That was appropriate. 

Within a year, the terrorists were largely gone — scattered to other regions. Their government sympathizers were overthrown. Bin Laden is dead. But…our young men and women are still there, engaged in a futile effort to defy thousands of years of history. 

Our involvement in Iraq was — and remains — a similar story. It is difficult to argue that our military engagement there has improved the lives of anyone, or made us safer.

Our Constitution sought to limit the power of presidents to engage in military actions in foreign lands. Congress has shamefully, and I believe, illegally ignored its responsibility to enforce those limits and its war powers.  It’s time to bring our troops home, stop throwing good money after bad, and allow our amazing military to focus on what they signed up for:  Keeping America safe and free.