How the FBI manufactures terrorists

Last night I watched a terrific HBO documentary, “The Newburgh Sting.”  It is basically the story of how the FBI completely manufactured a terrorism case.  The FBI offered four ex-cons $250,000 dollars to blow up a synagogue and parked military planes.  The “terrorists” were quite clear they didn’t want to hurt anybody, but they would gladly take a quarter million dollars and pretend to actually be serious Muslims (they were all nominally Muslim at best) for the money.  Guess what, if the criteria for being a terrorist is a willingness to engage in serious property destruction for $250,000 than there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of terrorists in this country.  Were these guys stupid?  Absolutely.  Amoral?  Sure.  Terrorists?  Not on your life.  Deserving of 25 year prison sentences for a crime the FBI created out of whole cloth to entice them?  No way.  Damn, damn, damn, I hate that our government behaves this way.

And let’s not forget the opportunity cost.  The FBI certainly does not have unlimited resources.  All those resources turning poor, greedy, ex-cons into terrorists would surely be better off trying to catch real terrorists.  Also, as the film points out, how much better off would we be if the FBI would work with mosques, rather than alienating them by having them wonder if every new member isn’t an FBI informant seeking to create “terrorists” from among their members.  Naturally, this is not a one-off case.  First time I heard about the FBI manufacturing terrorism was this excellent This American Life episode.

If you have HBO, watch this.  If not, here’s some good articles I came across.

Race and criminal injustice

So, I listened to this slightly old Gist podcast this morning.  Sure, I know about the role of race and social class in our criminal justice system, but it still remains bracing and distressing to hear first-hand accounts of the institutional racism.  Then I watched this (again, terrific) John Oliver segment on our prison system.  Such an indictment.  Middle-class white people doing drugs?  No problem.  Black people?  Prison for you.  And so much more.  If you care about criminal justice in America, you really owe it to yourself to watch:

Then I (finally) read from a conservative taking our criminal justice system to task.  Nice to see from somebody who writes for the National Review, rather than just a libertarian, like Balko:

Imagine if I were to tell you there is a large group of government employees, with generous salaries and ridiculously cushy retirement pensions covered by the taxpayer, who enjoy incredible job security and are rarely held accountable even for activities that would almost certainly earn the rest of us prison time. When there is proven misconduct, these government employees are merely reassigned and are rarely dismissed. The bill for any legal settlements concerning their errors? It, too, is covered by the taxpayers. Their unions are among the strongest in the country.

No, I’m not talking about public-school teachers.

I’m talking about the police.

We conservatives recoil at the former; yet routinely defend the latter — even though, unlike teachers, police officers enjoy an utter monopoly on force and can ruin — or end — one’s life in a millisecond.

Yep.  And again a litany of horrible police misconduct that all too often is barely punished.  I am ashamed to admit I had not heard of the case of Eric Garner in New York City.  The police killed him by choking him and sitting on him while he cried out “I can’t breathe.”   The above piece links to the horribly disturbing video.  His offense?  Allegedly selling cigarettes on the street.  More here from the NYT Editorial:

Mr. de Blasio and the police commissioner, William Bratton, say there will be a thorough investigation into Mr. Garner’s death. The undercover officer, Daniel Pantaleo, had to surrender his badge and gun; another officer was put on desk duty. Two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians were placed on modified duty. The Civilian Complaint Review Board, meanwhile,has promised to re-examine the last five years of chokehold complaints. The board received 1,022 such complaints since 2009 and substantiated nine of them, recommending administrative trials for the credibly accused officers. But, in all but one of those cases, they received the lightest sanctions or no punishment at all. This is not reassuring.

It should go without saying that neighborhoods should feel protected by law enforcement, and that officers should be expert at defusing conflicts and avoiding lethal violence.

And lastly, you should really take some time and read this fabulous Sarah Stillman piece on the criminal justice system’s war on poor people.  Truly disgusting and depressing.

Let ‘em out

Okay, let’s start by saying that I think most violent felons need to be serving substantial prison sentences.  That said, we incarcerate far too many people for far too long in this country.  That might be worthwhile if it actually kept us safer.  But there’s not a lot of evidence that it does.  Nice Wonkblog post on how recent prison reductions in NY and NJ have not done anything to increase crime rates, as you might expect if all this incarceration was actually reducing crime:

The Sentencing Project

The sentencing Project

We certainly can’t take these three charts and conclude that reducing prison populations reduces crime. But these trends do make it harder to argue the opposite — particularly in the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. As the Sentencing Project puts it, “in the era of mass incarceration, there is a growing consensus that current levels of incarceration place the nation well past the point of diminishing returns in crime control.”

The militarization of the police

Great New Rules from Bill Maher.  I especially like how Maher points out that it is huge failure of “small government” conservatives to stand up to such egregious abuse of governmental authority.

Criminalizing poor parenting

I kept adding articles about this topic to my pending quick hits list until I decided this just needs it’s own post.  The degree to which state bureaucracies seem to be willing to criminally punish poor parents (i.e., those who cannot always find affordable, reliable child care) while working (or going to college class, etc.) is truly abhorrent.  Not to mention the willingness to totally destroy families all in the name of “best interests of the children.”  Best interests my ass.

First, Radley Balko.  Several disturbing examples you should read, but here’s his conclusions:

You needn’t approve of the parents’ actions in any of these cases to understand that dumping them into the criminal justice system is a terribly counterproductive way of addressing their mistakes. (And I’m not at all convinced that three of the four stories were even mistakes.) The mere fact that state officials were essentially micromanaging these parents’ decisions is creepy enough. That the consequences for the “wrong” decision are criminal is downright scary.

It doesn’t benefit these kids in the least to give their parents a criminal record, smear their parents’ names in their neighborhoods and communities and make it more difficult for their parents to find a job.

Jessica Grose:

Debra Harrell, 46, let her 9-year-old daughter play outside alone at the park. The South Carolina child had a cellphone she could use to call her mother in case of emergency. On the girl’s third day alone at the park, someone asked her where her mother was. The girl said her mom was at work. (Harrell works at McDonald’s and didn’t want her daughter to have to sit inside the restaurant for hours on a beautiful summer day.) The result? Harrell was arrested for “unlawful conduct towards a child” and put in jail; her daughter is now in the custody of the department of social services.

Most commentators—save for a few busybodies interviewed by the local news who nattered on about the possibility of the child being abducted by a strange man, something that’s extremely rarethink that authorities went way too farin arresting Harrell. It angers me, as a citizen, to see the police overreach this way. How is it benefiting this child to be put in the custody of social services? And since I’m a parent, Harrell’s arrest scares me: How can I appropriately parent my child when doing something that seems relatively safe, if out of fashion, can get you arrested?

Connor Friedersdorf (longer excerpt, but spot-on):

The case is disturbing on several levels.

1) Parents ought to enjoy broad latitude in bringing up their children. There are obviously limits. The state ought to intervene if a child is being abused. But letting a 9-year-old go to the park alone doesn’t come close to meeting that threshold. Honestly, it seems a bit young to me, but I don’t know the kid or the neighborhood, it doesn’t sound as though the mother had any great option, and as I didn’t give birth to the kid, support her, and raise her for 9 years, it isn’t my call.

2) By arresting this mom (presumably causing her to lose her job) and putting the child in foster care, the state has caused the child far more trauma than she was ever likely to suffer in the park, whatever one thinks of the decision to leave her there. Even if the state felt it had the right to declare this parenting decision impermissible, couldn’t they have given this woman a simple warning before taking custody?

3) The state’s decision is coming at a time when it is suffering from a shortage of foster families, as well as a child protective services workforce so overwhelmedthat serious child abuse inquiries are regularly closed in violation of policy.

Perhaps most concerning of all are the surfeit of cases where child protective services censures parents for ostensibly jeopardizing a kid’s safety in a manner that is totally disconnected from any statistical realities about the actual dangers faced.

He then links to the excellent comments about what actually endangers children, which I linked to a few weeks ago.

And, finally, he follows up with another disturbing, harrowing story of a 35-year widow who’s children were taken away and subjected to awful experiences in various foster homes because she left her four 10 and under children home while she went to a college class.  And even if you think that is negligent parenting (a reasonable argument, but the full context matters), the idea that the state’s solution to this was actually in the best interests of the woman’s children is completely risible.

This is just all wrong.  Sadly, though, I do think it fits into Balko’s larger theme:

A couple of themes we explore here at The Watch are the increasing criminalization of just about everything and the use of the criminal justice system to address problems that were once (and better) handled by families, friends, communities and other institutions. A few examples from recent headlines show those themes intersecting with parenthood.

This simply needs to change.

Prosecutors want to prosecute

Really good NPR story about how a number of states are looking to overhaul their prison sentencing– especially unduly harsh drug sentencing– but prosecutors and jailers are pushing back.  Why?   First, because for some people, more prisoners equals more jobs and more money for law enforcement– forget considerations of justice and unnecessary human misery:

Liz Mangham, a lobbyist, has represented the conservative sentencing reformers in Baton Rouge. While they’ve made progress, she says they appeared to cross a red line this spring with a bill to step down Louisiana’s stiff penalties for possession of marijuana.

Under current law, possession is a felony on the second offense. A third may get you as much as 20 years in prison. Mangham recalls the scene when the bill came up for a crucial hearing…

“The Judiciary Committee room was full. The anteroom across the hall, which is twice the size, was full, and the halls were full … of [district attorneys] and sheriffs coming down to oppose the bill,” she says.

The bill died on the spot. In Louisiana and other parts of the South, district attorneys and sheriffs — who Mangham calls “the courthouse crowd” — have a lot of political clout at the state level. She says it’s understandable why most sheriffs opposed the bill, because they house state prisoners in parish jails and every prisoner represents a payment from the state.

“So when you’re making money to warehouse prisoners, why on earth would you be in favor of sentencing reform?” Mangham says.

Depressing.  And as for the DA’s, they are opposed because they like to extort/blackmail accused criminals with the harsh sentences:

The vast majority of criminal cases in America are resolved through plea bargains. Defendants plead guilty out of fear of getting a worse sentence if they don’t. Plea bargains jumped above 90 percent in the 1980s and ’90s, in part because a wave of harsh new sentences for drug offenses strengthened prosecutors’ hands when bargaining with defendants.

“For a DA to have the ability to dangle over someone’s head 10, 20 years in jail, that provides them with tremendous leverage to pretty much get whatever they want,” says Louisiana State Sen. J.P. Morrell, a Democrat from New Orleans and former public defender.

Morrell was one of the sponsors of the marijuana sentencing reform bill that failed in Baton Rouge. He says one of the benefits of that reform would have been a reduction in the power of prosecutors to, as Louisiana courthouse slang puts it, “bitch” a defendant. A reference to Louisiana’s habitual offender law, it refers to a DA threatening to use past convictions — often for marijuana possession — to multiply the length of a defendant’s potential sentence…

John de Rosier, the district attorney of Calcasieu Parish, La., says “we have people all the time that we know have been involved in robberies, rapes and murders. We haven’t been able to prove our cases, but we’re in court with them for second-offense possession of marijuana. What do you think we’re going to do?”

That’s commonly referred to as “prosecutorial discretion,” and it’s an argument that alarms sentencing reformers like Morrell.

“That level of discretion ought to be terrifying to people,” Morrell says. “If you cannot convict someone of a murder, of a robbery, whatever, the fact that you have a disproportionate backup charge to convict them anyway kind of defeats the purpose of due process.” [emphasis mine]

Morrell gets this exactly right.  Prosecutors don’t get to decide on their own somebody is guilty and they’ll make sure somebody gets way-too-many years in prison for a drug possession charge because they don’t actuallyo have enough evidence for the crime they think the accused is guilty of.  That’s a complete violation of basic standards of justice.

It is great to see conservatives and liberals coming together to reform our absurd sentencing laws when it comes to drugs.  But frustrating to see the attachments to injustice that stand in the way.

Super-Mega Quick hits

Sure, I’m at the beach, but quick hits will not be denied!  (In fact, it’s extra long as a direct result)  There’s a ton, but I didn’t feel like breaking them up this week.  Sorry.  Enjoy…

1) Krugman on conservative delusions about inflation.  It really is pretty amazing how these continue.

2) Challenges universities face from a professor’s point of view.

3) Loved this essay in the Atlantic on how all the mothers in animated movies are dead.  Or at least essentially out of the picture.  A notable exception– The Incredibles, one of the best animated films in the past decade (and a favorite of all the Greene kids and parents).

4) Nice Brenday Nyhan in the Upshot.  When beliefs and facts collide, beliefs win.  Though, not for me and my enlightened and scientifically-minded readers :-).

5) Apparently, this is the year of 42 year old women.  It just so happens I’m married to one.

6) Kristof on just one more sad story of wronful imprisonment.  I’m going to be reading this guy’s book.

7) Three psychological findings I wish I’d known in high school.  Indeed.

8) I so loved classic rock when I was a teenager.  I thought I was much too cool for the rock of the times.  Of course, now that’s “classic rock” too.  538 with a look by the numbers.

9) Nice Economist piece on the myth of the omnipotent presidency and the damage that the myth does.

10) Yahoo Tech presents 15 entertaining novelty twitter accounts.  Some of these really are awesome.

11) Fascinating story on the last days of Diane Rehm’s husband and how we starved/dehydrated himself to death (he had advanced Parkinson’s).

12) Back before youtube there was jibjab.  This land is your land was a revelation.

13) Okay, turns out that whole how to/not to praise children thing really is getting complicated.  Still, I think it is clear that it is a good idea not to over-praise nor praise excessively for innate abilities.

14) Nice Salon piece on how NC”s new Republican-led voter disenfranchisement laws really are the most evil in the country.

15) I was fascinated by this Atlantic piece on how the “crossover” has taken over the new car market.  I had no idea.  Of course, my cars are from 1998 and 2000.  Really interesting on the history of cars versus minivans versus SUV’s, etc.

16) When I first read about the Kentucky State Senator and the temperature on Mars, I figured he couldn’t really be that dumb.  Turns out he’s not.  But still pretty damn stupid.  I’m sorry, Democratic state legislators just don’t come this dumb.

17) Pope Francis, radical environmentalist.

18) There was going to be a Seinfeld episodes about guns, but the cast nixed it when they were already rehearsing.

19) It is just too easy to be declared a suspicious person by the US Government.  With all sorts of bad consequences.

20) How coffee fueled the Civil War.  My sense is that stimulant drugs have fueled soldiers whenever and wherever they have been available.

21) You all know about my love for apples.  Turns out, I’ve really got to get my wife to start eating more.

Race and Criminal (In)Justice in two graphs

Via Vox:

Drug_use_by_race

Us_drug_arrest_rates

Now, there may be a reasonable explanation for some of that gap, and Vox tries.  But there’s just now way you can explain away a gap that large absent institutional racism.

And, of course, there’s plenty of documentation about the historical connection between race and attitudes toward particular illegal drugs.

Better gun policy

Very nice Q&A with a gun policy expert in TNR:  Hits some key points and completely undermines the NRA’s counter-arguments:

Why should we believe guns per se are the problem?  Isn’t it true that guns don’t kill peoplepeople kill people?

Guns are not the sole reason why the U.S. has such unusually high homicide rates, but our lax gun laws may be the most important determinant. Rates of non-lethal violent crime, adolescent fighting, and mental illness in the U.S. are average compared with other high-income countries.  [emphasis mine]

A major, major feature that gun supporters ignore is that most all these illegal guns began is legal guns.  That’s what we need to crackdown on:

OK, so we’ve never really tried to make background checks truly universal. Why should we believe that will work?

When criminals get guns, they get them from friends, family, or from an underground market source. Without universal background check requirements, there is little deterrent to selling guns to criminals or gun traffickers. State laws mandating universal background checks deter the diversion of guns to criminals. The most comprehensive screening and background check processes, where potential gun purchasers apply in person for permits to purchase handguns, are associated with lower homicide and suicide rates.

But won’t there still be a whole bunch of guns out there, being sold illegally and falling into the hands of criminals? 

Yes, some criminals will be able to steal or purchase guns already in circulation. But many of the estimated 300 million guns in civilian hands can’t be easily acquired by criminals. Lots of gun owners lock their guns in safes or have other ways to secure their firearms, practices that can be increased by laws and educational campaigns. And it’s not as easy or risk free for criminals to buy guns in the underground market as is commonly believed. Duke economist Philip Cook has studied Chicago’s underground gun market and said, “there may be a lot of guns, but there is a shortage of trusted sellers.” With greater accountability measures and choking the supply of new guns into the underground market, street prices will rise and fewer dangerous people will have guns.

And, of course, contrary to what the NRA says, this does not really hurt legitimate gun owners:

I’ve heard the NRA say that gun control takes guns away from law-abiding citizens, not criminals. Isn’t that true? Aren’t we better off allowing people to defend themselves with a firearm? 

This is a bogus argument that has worked extremely well for the gun lobby’s fundraising and been instrumental in its success in fending off common-sense gun laws. Requiring a background check of prospective purchasers does not take away guns from law abiding people, nor does close regulation and oversight of gun dealers.

The gun lobby says that background checks will lead to registries of gun ownershipand, eventually, the confiscation of weapons.  But federal law forbids anything resembling a federal gun registry, we’ve had background check requirements for sales by license dealers since 1994 without registries or gun confiscation, and states that do have their own gun registries have never used them to remove guns from law abiding citizens.

Sorry, this is not just some agree to disagree kind of issue.  There’s smart policy on one side versus NRA/gun-nut hysteria on the other.

Quick hits

1) On the fashions of World Cup soccer coaches.

2) New Republic has a new Jonathan Cohn-led policy blog.  I’m looking forward to good stuff.

3) Really wanted to give this own post since I’m always fascinated by IUD policy, but it’s just not happening.  Anyway, good Slate story about an Ohio legislator who wants to ban coverage for IUD’s (while admitting he doesn’t actually know anything about medicine).

4) So, what do those extra thousands for a premium DSLR lens really get you anyway?

5) How Americans pronounce common tech words (I had no idea some people say “wiffy.”)  And it’s .gif with a soft “g” damnit!

6) Sticking with language, love this on words that are most known to only men or only women.  Two thoughts… Paladin!!  and damn, I thought I’d know more of the “women” words.

7) I’ve only remembered to try this with a paper towel once, but it didn’t quite work.  Maybe I need to shake more.

8) Nice NPR story on trying to be a better parent.

9) It’s really kind of pathetic that it has taken this long to have the technology in place to allow planes to have consistently descending glide paths in their landings.  The good news is that it finally is and that it saves a ton of jet fuel.

10) Loved this on the under-performance of top NBA draft picks.  And 538 makes the case that teams should draft college sophomores (I just don’t think freshman year is always a good enough sample size for prediction).

11) Yes, sports heavy week.  Loved this Atlantic piece on the siblings of World Cup players, especially Clint Dempsey’s big brother.

12) The relationship between political attitudes on guns and abortion.  Richard Nixon brings it all together.

13)Science, politics, and NC beaches.  Personally, I just hope Topsail Beach lasts long enough for me to take my grandkids there.

14) Jeffrey Toobin on when the Constitution itself gets it wrong and (again) the folly of Scalia’s originalism.

Using technology for smarter punishment

I was reading and loving Dylan Matthews’ Vox post on why we should be using less prisons and more high-tech location monitoring (GPS, etc.) and thinking that this is basically just what my go-to Criminologist, Mark Kleiman, would have ordered.  Of course, at the end, Matthews’ basically says as much.  Kleiman is all about using research to use our criminal justice resources far more efficiently.  And when you consider that prison space is among our scarcest resources, our current use– in addition to being monstrously inhumane by international standards– is also monstrously inefficient.  It’s a great piece (I think just the sort of thing for which Ezra wanted to create Vox) and you should read it, but basically it comes down to the fact that we should save prison for violent offenders, repeat offenders, and those who violate their location monitoring (i.e., high-tech house arrrest).  Of course, that may not sound punitive enough to you, but as far as smart and efficient use of society’s criminal justice resources, it is surely the way to go:

While the idea of house arrest has been around for millennia, it has always suffered from one key defect as a crime control tool: you can escape. Sure, you could place guards on the homes where prisoners are staying, but it’s much easier to secure a prison with a large guard staff than it is a thousand different houses with a guard or two apiece.

Today, we have something better than guards: satellites. The advent of GPS location tracking means it’s now possible for authorities to be alerted the second a confinee leaves their home. That not just enables swift response in the event of escape; it deters escape by making clear to detainees that they won’t get away with it.

Researchers have tested electronic monitoring as an alternative approach to parole, probation, or other criminal punishments that fall short of imprisonment — and it’s been a huge success. An Urban Institute analysis found that electronic monitoring reduces odds of re-arrest by 23.5 percent relative to traditional probation, and a randomized study in Switzerland found major advantages to electronic monitoring compared to mandated community service…

So, if electronic monitoring can work just as well as prison — and keeps prisoners from being physically and sexually assaulted by guards and other inmates, and saves money, and perhaps even allows some inmates to earn a living while serving time — why not switch?

[rapists and murderers, basically]

But the fact of the matter is that rapists and murderers are a distinct minority of the prison population, at least in the United States. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of 2011 only 12.6 percent of state prisoners in 2011 were there for murder, 1.5 percent for negligent manslaughter, and 12.4 percent for rape or sexual assault. That’s only 26.5 percent of the overall prison population. The numbers are even starker in federal prisons: only 3.8 percent of prisoners committed any kind of violent crime.

And here’s Matthew’s brief proposed solution:

A solution

So how’s about this. The US should:

1. Move those imprisoned for offenses short of homicide or sexual assault to GPS-supervised house arrest as soon as is practicable, with a guaranteed, immediate prison stay for those who violate its terms.

2. Reserve prisons for repeat offenders and those who’ve committed truly heinous crimes.

There are obviously other details to be worked out. You wouldn’t want people convicted of domestic violence to be sentenced to home confinement with their victims, for instance; in those cases, some kind of alternate housing would have to be offered to ensure separation.

But if successful, this plan could reduce admissions by at least half, probably much more. Hopefully, this will just be a temporary measure. In principle, it could get to the point technologically where house arrest becomes as hard to escape as prison is. At that point, abolishing prison outright starts to become imaginable. UK home secretary David Blunkett spoke too soon when he referred to electronic monitoring as “prison without bars,” but that dream is attainable. As Kleiman once put it, “My view is that if you know where someone is, you don’t have to put them in the cage.”

I’m sure as hell on board.  It’s great to see that there’s more and more places experimenting with punishment through technology, and very importantly, focusing on the swiftness and certainty of the punishment– the true keys to deterrence– rather than the severity.   Technology as a savior is often oversold, but it is quite clear that it could really do wonders to continue to protect the public, punish the guilty, help rehabilitate the guilty, and do it for far less money than we currently spend.  We’ll always need prisons.  But we sure as hell don’t need them for 1 in every 108 Americans or the 1 in 3 black males who will be imprisoned over a lifetime.

I’m a Rand Paul Republican

Okay, not really, but when it comes to issues of criminal justice, this guy is right on and the rest of the Republican party is still in their “tough on crime” fantasyland.  I finished my Criminal Justice Policy summer class this week and was thinking about how one of my favorite students was an ardent libertarian.  When it comes to this particular class, the genuine libertarians and I are pretty much always on the same page (definitely not so most other classes I teach).  Anyway, I was thinking about this in light of Emily Bazelon’s piece yesterday about Rand Paul wanting to restore voting rights to ex-felons.  Of course, it seems entirely unjust and illogical to deny voting rights to those who have already served their punishment.  Then again, they are far more likely to be poor and non-white.  Bazelon:

When libertarian Republicans go on about the “tyranny” of the federal government, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is prone to do, I tune out. But not today. Paul has been talking for a while about how his conception of tyranny extends to long, draconian prison sentences for mostly poor and black offenders. Now he is introducing a bill that would restore voting rights to nonviolent ex-felons in federal elections. This bill is not about to become law any time soon. But give Paul credit for standing on principle even though he and his party would hardly benefit.

I’m also reminded of a recent Vox piece on Paul and the aforementioned sentencing reform:

Over the weekend, Rand Paul spoke at the Iowa Republican convention — and harshly condemned America’s war on drugs. “It’s a problem to lock people up for 10 and 15 and 20 years for youthful mistakes,” Paul said. He went on to point out that racial minorities are particularly unfairly treated by the system:

IT’S SIGNIFICANT THAT PAUL IS SAYING THIS IN IOWA

PAUL: If you look at the war on drugs, 3 out of 4 people in prison are black or brown. White kids are doing it too, in fact, if you look at all the surveys, white kids do it just as much as black and brown kids. But the prisons are full of black and brown kids because they don’t get a good attorney, they live in poverty, it’s easier to arrest them than to go to the suburbs.

Paul then called for compassion for young drug offenders, and argued that voting rights should be given back to some felons who’ve served their time:

PAUL: Most of us are Christians or Jews or of the Judeo-Christian faith, and it’s like, we believe in redemption. We believe in a second chance. Should a 19-year old kid get a second chance? I think yes. Let’s be the party that has compassion, that doesn’t say the behavior is right, but says, ‘You know what? When you’re done with your time, you get the right to vote back.’ Let’s be the party that is for extending the right to vote back to people who have paid their time, who have reformed their ways.

These aren’t new positions for Paul. But the fact that he made them loud and clear to a convention of Iowa Republicans is significant, because of Iowa’s importance to the presidential nomination process.

There’s no way stands like this win Paul votes among many Republican primary voters.  Kudos to him for standing up for the right thing.  Now, if only the rest of the Republican party was willing to do so.

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