Sunday, June 24, 2018

TX Dem platform prioritizes #cjreform

Having detailed #cjreform planks added to the Texas state GOP platform, let's now turn to the Democratic platform approved this week in Fort Worth. Criminal-justice reform was the first section in the final platform document (see here), an obeisance not afforded the subject in many a year among Democratic opinion leaders.

The differences in the R and D platforms in large part stemmed from differences in process. The Republican party platform is a completely grassroots affair, with resolutions bubbling up from the precinct-convention level and the final product looking like a hodge-podge list of unrelated and frequently disconnected suggestions.

By contrast, the Democratic platform committee re-wrote the #cjreform section from scratch. So it reads more coherently and includes fewer jarring non-sequiturs than some of the platform planks on the R side. But it's also less of a direct expression of grassroots opinion within the party, for whatever that's worth.

In all, some version of ten of Just Liberty's proposed platform planks ended up in the GOP platform, and about 15, in some form, made it in on the D side.

In many ways, though, the Dem platform goes further than Just Liberty's resolutions. It  more systematically gives candidates at different levels - justices of the peace, constables, sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges - issues they could potentially run on as Democrats. And it's a pretty good list, much better developed than the less-reform-minded 2016 version. The various subsection titles include:
  • Bail reform
  • Re-entry
  • Mass incarceration
  • School-to-prison pipeline
  • Juvenile justice
  • Policing and improving community partnerships
  • Eliminating private prisons
  • Criminalizing intentional prosecutor misconduct
The reformist approach expressed in the Democratic platform is more comprehensive and fully developed than its GOP counterpart, but because of the party's seemingly permanent minority status, it's also perhaps less consequential.

Still, the Democratic platform had not significantly embraced a reform mindset on criminal-justice in years past. Now, they're suggesting cutting edge reforms and distinctly new approaches. For example, "Treating drug use as a public health challenge rather than a crime," and "Reducing possession of small amounts of controlled substances to a misdemeanor, even when it is a repeat offense."

They also endorsed, echoing a plank in the GOP platform, "Ending the practice of sending poor people to jail or prison for inability to pay fines or court costs."

Soon, Grits will follow up with a post detailing points of agreement between D and R platforms and speculating on prospects for bipartisan #cjreform in the 2019 Texas Legislature.

RELATED: Check out the special podcast Just Liberty put together to promote criminal-justice reform measures in the Texas Democratic Party platform.

1 comment:

Steven Seys said...

It would be a great day in the history of criminal justice if Texas led the way to put teeth in the law governing the conduct of a district attorney and prosecutor. The idea of criminalizing prosecutorial misconduct is not new, but it is now.