Get Ready for Fights Over Criminal Justice Reform

In the brand new year ahead get ready for some brand new moves to change the criminal justice system as we know it. In some states its already happening.

You’ll hear about several proposals in the coming months.

Among them: cut the U.S. prison population by more than half; close all private prisons; shutter all private immigration detention centers; eliminate cash bail for arrestees awaiting trial; cancel the death penalty and stop judges from handing out mandatory minimum sentences. In addition, you’ll hear about reestablishing federal monitoring of police departments for civil rights violations and forbidding officers from using chokeholds or no-knock raids to round up those suspected of serious crimes. The Biden administration has endorsed all these criminal justice reform proposals.

Some citizens will consider these fine ideas. Others will not. And therein lies the great debate ahead for all of us. Pages could be filled with the pros and cons on each of these suggestions.

The question as I see it is exactly how will some, or all, of these ideas be put into practice? Will there be thoughtful discussion of each proposal or will they be hastily crammed down citizen’s throats by political fiat?

U.S. presidents have the power to simply issue an executive order or memorandum to put their desires into effect, provided the order is not out of step with either the Constitution or laws already on the books. Such a president’s decree carries the same weight as any law passed by Congress. Naturally, critics can – and do – challenge Executive Orders in court.

Wikipedia photo by Martin Falbisoner
U.S. President’s Can Issue Orders That Become Like Law

Case in point: President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13768 which withheld federal criminal justice funds from defiant “sanctuary cities” that refused to uphold U.S. immigration laws. That 2017 order faced several legal trials and has been see-sawing through the courts ever since.

President Trump’s bottom line was clear – cities and states should not be allowed to ignore established laws.

Yet, currently, in Los Angeles, California that is exactly what the union representing some 800 prosecutors claims is happening at the directive of the newly elected District Attorney, George Gascon. The union filed a lawsuit.

California’s penal code has long instructed prosecutors to seek extra prison time for defendants who have a prior criminal record, those found in possession of a firearm or those with known gang ties. Other longstanding sentencing enhancements include defendants convicted of crimes against children or the elderly or so-called hate crimes. Shortly after Gascon took office he issued a directive instructing his vast team of prosecutors to lay off the extra enhancements.

Wikipedia photo by Shawn Calhoun - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
George Gascon, LA’s New District Attorney

The union’s lawsuit claims Gascon’s directive “placed line prosecutors in an ethical dilemma – follow the law, their oath, and their ethical obligations, or follow their superior’s orders.”

Gascon, a progressive who campaigned for a kinder criminal justice system, is fighting the lawsuit and says he is simply doing what the voter’s elected him to do. In response to the lawsuit Gascon said, “Over-incarceration — the practice of sending people to jails and prisons for too long – does not enhance safety.”

Gascon is not the only DA to take office and suddenly change the rules. Same thing has happened in Philadelphia, Portland, Chicago, Boston, Dallas and other cities.

Is this what we want? Should elected officials be allowed to ignore the laws they don’t like and order underlings to follow their lead? Seems like a gamble when it comes to public safety.

Should We Adopt a New Justice System or Uphold the Old Way?

As these matters play out in lengthy and expensive court battles all taxpayers can do is sit back, watch and realize that the only current winners are the lawyers.

What will happen then if President Biden uses his executive power to sidestep debate and enact the progressive proposals listed above? There will surely be more divisiveness and more court fights.

Many in the criminal justice system think this scenario is a real possibility. They worry that police departments will be further crippled and judges will be forced to release dangerous defendants with no bail and the unrealistic hope that they will return for trial.

We have entered a phase of politics where leading by partisan edict is becoming more frequent. No debate of issues, just politicians who feel emboldened to ram through their ideas. Is this okay with you?



  1. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:18 am

    RFort6 writes:

    I enjoyed your article on criminal justice reform on the Santa Barbara Noozhawk. It might have gone to the next level if you had included the source of campaign funds for district attorneys around the country including the ones you mentioned…George Soros.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Bob Fort

  2. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Donna Viestenz writes:

    I know exactly what will happen! Have seen it. Worked LE for 16 1⁄2 years. Good people end up losing everything. People die. Dirty corrupt crooks have no moral compass. Give em an inch the crooks will take a mile!!!

  3. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:21 am

    snblue09 writes:

    How will these be put into practice?

    Easy. Executive Orders.

    Biden has already shown us that he isn’t interested in working with Congress. He’s going to wave his magic pen and do what he wants.

    • J Davis on January 31, 2021 at 4:29 pm

      You didn’t know this was coming? EOs have been around for a list of Administrations, most recently Trumps.
      Before that, when Mitch proclaimed he’d not Legislate, it became the go-to method of action.
      It is going to take Legislators intent on Governing, rather than obstructing,
      to shift the methods. Look to Capitol Hill to make the difference, not the

  4. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:22 am

    Jaxx writes:

    I foresee a mass exodus of police officers from the law enforcement profession.
    How long are the brave men and women going to continue to put their lives on the line to protect and serve when they run the risk of losing their livelihoods and possibly their very freedom because they didn’t play nice with criminals?
    How many people are going to choose to be in law enforcement as a career when they get backstabbed for cheap political gain?

    • Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:23 am

      jcortez916 replies to Jaxx:

      I just resigned. Others are following. How many is the question.

  5. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Enchantress writes:

    Trump also extensively used EOs a lot more than I cared for. Obama did the same.
    I wish our Constitution reigned in President’s EO powers a bit more.. circumventing Congress got out of hand long ago.

  6. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Winston Wills writes:

    This is more of a local issue than a federal one. Many of these reforms have already been put into place here in Houston (Harris County). They are not written in any law or executive order. Instead the liberal Democrat judges and DAs and police chief are simply performing these actions. That is why local elections of judges and DAs are so important.

  7. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:24 am

    GH TheFarmer writes:

    Definitely NOT OK!!! We need law & order or the criminals will have a free for all.

  8. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:25 am

    Dave writes:

    And Joe wants to defeat the NRA, while systemically releasing criminals into the populace? Good plan…

  9. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Kazmyn Johannes writes:

    Exactly. It’s isn’t okay for Republicans any more than Democrats. This insane rush to “get what we want” almost certainly insures no one really does

  10. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:27 am

    Anais Nin writes:

    This are the same new rules they applied to schools . To diminish the stats of unruly minority kids in school one just does not report them anymore . To change stats on crime you just do not report on it and do not incarcerate anyone much anymore . As long DC has the national guard what do they care . It’s time to get two pit bulls .

  11. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 10:30 am

    Joseph L. Giacalone writes:

    It only gets worse from here.

  12. Diane Dimond on January 26, 2021 at 11:28 am

    Karen Roberts writes:

    I don’t disagree with all of your perspective on the proposed changes to the criminal justice system. But I disagree with your contention that, “We have entered a phase of politics where leading by partisan edict is becoming more frequent. No debate of issues, just politicians who feel emboldened to ram through their ideas”

    Your attempt to make the current administration look bad with your innuendo about executive orders is off the mark. Executive orders have been used throughout our short existence. Franklin Roosevelt had the most per year at 307. Herbert Hoover had 242 per year. Woodrow Wilson, 225. Warren Harding, 216. Calvin Coolidge, 215. William Taft, 181. Theodore Roosevelt, 144. Harry Truman, 116. Certainly Trump was not shy about using them. I don’t recall if you had a problem with him “leading by partisan edict”. I don’t recall if you had a problem with Mitch McConnell sitting on almost 400 pieces of legislation for partisan reasons. No debates. No discussion. Just unilaterally putting them on the back burner. I don’t recall if you had a problem with McConnell holding up Supreme Court nominations for partisan reasons. No debate. Just a politician feeling emboldened to ram through his ideas.

    So, we haven’t, in one week’s time, entered a phase of politics where partisan edict is becoming more frequent. We’ve been there for a long while. Will both sides suddenly try to change that? It would be nice if they even tried.

    Karen Roberts
    Joplin, MO

  13. Arthur S Kramer on January 26, 2021 at 11:45 am

    “And therein lies the great debate ahead for all of us. Pages could be filled with the pros and cons on each of these suggestions.” My fear is that we won’t get that thoughtful debate we need. We have been fed anecdotes of unjust imprisonment and crimes committed by those released improvidently. I want real analysis if tough sentencing made us safer or not. I want real analysis of what has caused the reported record levels of shootings in many cities. I want real discussions about “for profit” incarceration, what it costs and if it does better or worse at rehab of those incarcerated. I want real discussion of whether mandatory minimum sentences increase or decrease the number of career criminals. I am tired of unsupported talking points. Isn’t anyone really studying these things? If so, why haven’t we heard from them more?

  14. Diane Dimond on January 27, 2021 at 11:44 am

    Peter Moskos writes:

    It’s a self-fulfilling cycle: When 1) criminal justice “reform” causes more crime, it 2) highlights the inadequacies of the criminal justice system, which 3) brings more calls for more “reform.”
    Good reform needs to focus on crime and community as well as policing and criminals.

  15. Diane Dimond on January 27, 2021 at 11:55 am

    Jonathan Swartz writes:

    Criminal justice reform has become a hot topic lately, especially in the Berkshires where I live. Great article Diane, another illustration as to why I have enjoyed reading your articles and seeing you on TV for the past 30 years or so, because your articles are on point. We still have to hold the most dangerous criminals accountable and keep them off the streets, but we also have to offer help to the people who need it the most.

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