Justice Update: At 100 Days, Trump Poised to Return to Outdated Justice Policies

April 26, 2017

New Report Looks at Crime and Justice in Trump’s First 100 Days

The Trump administration has painted a dark portrait of America in its first 100 days, using archaic rhetoric and misleading or false crime statistics to push for a return to outdated policies and potentially set back bipartisan efforts to end mass incarceration. A new analysis released last week by the Brennan Center looks at what the president and his team have done so far on crime and justice issues, and what the county can expect in the weeks and months ahead.

Criminal Justice in President Trump’s First 100 Days tracks key shifts in federal policy since Jan. 20. It examines everything from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speeches calling for a return to harsher federal charging policies on drug cases to the administration’s promise to deport undocumented immigrants and threatening to withhold federal funding from cities that don’t cooperate.

The report also looks at how President Trump and his team are invoking an image of ”American carnage” to justify their most controversial policies, pushing for decreased oversight of local police, increasing use of private prisons, and sending mixed signals on federal sentencing reform or reentry legislation.

Trump’s approach so far “directly contradicts the emerging consensus among conservatives, progressives, law enforcement, and researchers that the country’s incarceration rate is too high, and that our over-reliance on prison is not the best way to address crime,” write Ames Grawert and Natasha Camhi. “As crime remains near historic lows — despite local, isolated increases — these proposed changes are, ultimately, solutions in search of a problem.”

Learn more in The Atlantic, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Brian Lehrer Show, HuffPost, ThinkProgress, The Hill, and VICE News.

New Data Shows Crime Is Down Dramatically Over Last Quarter-Century

Despite pictures of a violence-ridden America from the Trump administration, crime rates have dropped dramatically and remain near historic lows according to a Brennan Center report released last week.

In Crime Trends: 1990-2016, a team of economics and policy researchers analyzed data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and directly from police departments in the nation’s 30 largest cities. They found that despite localized increases in some places, the overall crime rate is half of what it was in 1991. The urban crime rate has dropped by 63.9 percent in that same time frame.

From 1991-2016, researchers determined that both the violent crime rate and murder rate fell by roughly half. Increases in 2015 and 2016 can be attributed to problems in a handful of cities. Chicago, for example, is projected to account for almost half of the 2016 murder rate increase.

“To portray all cities as crime-ridden hellholes and immigrants as responsible, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, can only be characterized as ignorant and prejudiced,” wrote Jennifer Rubin in a story on the analysis for The Washington Post.

“Americans today are safer than they have been at almost any time in the past 25 years,” wrote analysis authors Matthew Friedman, Ames Grawert, and James Cullen. 

Research Roundup

  • This month, the Pew Foundation released a report on felony theft threshold and its impact on crime. Thirty-seven states have raised the value at which theft becomes a felony and while some have warned that this might lead to higher property crime rates, Pew’s analysis showed a continuing drop in property crime. Furthermore, a state’s felony threshold was not correlated with property crime rates.
  • While New York is relatively progressive when it comes to bail, more than 75 percent of the jail population is pretrial detainees, most of whom cannot afford their bail. The Vera Institute recently published a review of the Supervised Release program, which gives judges another option to release people who cannot afford their bail. While only preliminary, the report finds the program has been an overall success and shares how defense attorneys and prosecutors think it could be improved.
  • Last month, the Sentencing Project issued a report on immigrant crime rates, showing that they commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens. It concludes that “policies that further restrict immigration are therefore not effective crime-control strategies.”