Trump’s law and order promises won’t make America any safer
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Monday night, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE called for “law and order” and a return to the tough on crime policies of the past. This failed approach, which relies solely on more prison and aggressive policing, won’t make America safer nor uplift and strengthen urban communities.

The truth is that America is safer today than at nearly any other time in modern history. Property crimes, violent crime, and homicides have all plummeted over the last 25 years, nationwide. According to Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project, “no year during the George W. Bush, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump sues to block NY prosecutors' subpoena for his tax returns Most voters say there is too much turnover in Trump administration RNC spokeswoman on 2020 GOP primary cancellations: 'This is not abnormal' MORE, George H.W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan presidency was as safe as 2015.”

The FBI released its crime data Monday, which showed a small uptick in violent crime, and a 10 percent increase in homicides, driven primarily by increases in a handful of cities. Any increase in violent crime should be a serious concern, and addressed urgently and proactive, but it must be grounded in smart, meaningful reforms that can protect public safety and heal communities.

Our country cannot tolerate another round of politicians cherry picking and misrepresenting crime data to stoke fears, raise dog whistles, and score political points. Their rhetoric and campaign of misinformation will do more harm than good, especially in the poor, urban, and predominantly African-American communities that are often most impacted by crime.

The United States already has over two million people incarcerated, leading the world in both the number of people incarcerated and the rate of incarceration.

Most criminologists believe that we have long past the point where more incarceration is having any positive impact on reducing crime rates. in fact, there is more evidence of the opposite. People are less likely to commit future crimes if they don’t spend time in jail.

Donald Trump likes to talk a lot about Chicago, which is important, in light of the tragic and devastating violence there.  But his proposed solutions would only make things worse.

In Monday night’s debate, Mr. Trump said the following:

These are felons. These are people that are bad people that shouldn’t be -- when you have 3,000 shootings in Chicago from January 1st, when you have 4,000 people killed in Chicago by guns, from the beginning of the presidency of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE, his hometown, you have to have stop-and-frisk. You need more police.

Mr. Trump’s call for a return to the unconstitutional and racially-biased practice of stop-and- frisk policing is deeply worrisome. If more aggressive policing tactics and a larger police presence were the answers to the problem of violent crime, the areas of Chicago (and other cities) that have had the greatest uptick in violence would probably be the safest places in America.

Urban communities of color are already overburdened with heavy handed, failed policing strategies.There are many explanations for what may be causing the rise in Chicago’s murder rate, but a lack of aggressive, “stop-and-frisk” style policing isn’t one of them. Chicago already devotes $4 million a day to the police department. That amount represents approximately 40 percent of the city’s daily operational budget.

The majority of individuals involved in the rising violence in Chicago, either as perpetrators or victims, have had previous interactions with the justice system. Just as more police and more aggressive policing tactics won’t make our cities safer, neither will more prison cells or a demand for longer prison sentences. More often than not, people are entering the system as low-level offenders and receiving an education in becoming a more advanced criminal. This isn’t unique to Chicago.

The truth is we don’t need more incarceration or more aggressive policing, which have often done more harm than good. Instead, we need strategic investments in policies that are proven to reduce crime and protect public safety. These include education, rehabilitation, community policing, mental health services and substance abuse treatments that use medication-assisted therapies and cognitive-behavioral approaches.

We should also focus on addressing high levels of unemployment and poverty, which are truly at the root of violence and desperation in urban communities. And must pursue additional support services for individuals who may have committed acts of violence in the past.

If we want to keep our streets safe and tackle our overcrowded prison system, governors and legislators will have to summon the political courage to take a stand for the communities that are most impacted. This means offering more than just tough talk - it means long-term investments in historically under-resourced cities and neighborhoods. It will mean restoring faith in our criminal justice system through comprehensive reforms. And it will mean recognizing that nobody is beyond redemption.

Hopefully, presidential candidates can keep this in mind before they get swept away by fear and the lure of repeating past mistakes.

Haney is the  president of the San Francisco Board of Education and a co-founder of #cut50, a bipartisan criminal justice reform organization. Follow him on Twitter @MattHaneySF


 

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