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March 05, 2007

Huckabee and Crime

By Ezra

I was struck by this on Mike Huckabee's attitudes towards crime and punishment:

[Huckabee] has refused to take the predictable path by talking tough on crime to deflect the DuMond criticism. Instead, he campaigns on a compassionate approach to wrongdoers, especially those whose crimes are the result of drug or alcohol addiction. At Philly's Finest, he condemned the "revenge-based corrections system," sounding every bit the sort of squishy liberal that the Bill O'Reillys of the world long ago scared into the shadows. "We lock up a lot of people we are mad at rather than the ones we are really afraid of," he said. "We incarcerate more people than anybody on earth." As governor, Huckabee pushed for drug treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent offenders. He pushed for faith-based prison programs, and was critical of governors who "gladly pull the switch" on death penalty cases, an apparent knock on President Bush, who was criticized as governor of Texas for being cavalier about capital punishment.

It's been a long time since a national politician has spoken sense on the criminal justice system. Huckabee's formulation that we lock up folks we're mad at rather than afraid of is a brilliantly clear explanation of the inanities of our prison-industrial complex, and his invocation of the Christian swear word "revenge" has power too. Whether Huckabee has a shot, and whether the pressures of the campaign will force him into a more traditional law-and-order stance remain to be seen, but both bear watching.

Also: I've got a cray day today, and tomorrow -- root canal -- as well, so I've asked the Weekenders to pitch in if they're so inclined.

March 5, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

[pet rants coming]

1. Huckabee is almost singular among elected officials (and candidates) on his punishment stance. Everyone .office is totally afraid of sensible policies that actually reflect danger to society because they can't handle the idea of being accused of being soft on crime. Leadership? Not so much.

2. We seem to be getting further and further away from the idea that punishment is for the benefit of society as a whole to reflect failure to observe the law, and closer and closer to the idea that punishment is for the benefit of those in the family actually damaged - the eye for eye approach. The law, courts, and media now attend to the injured families hurts in many ways that were unheard of or unusual 50 years ago. The dispassion that should accompany legal judgement is damaged when we give undue weight (some weight being certainly OK) to the families. This is particularly true in sentencing, where the families often believe life in prison or the death penalty is the only course that will make their hurts deminish.

3. Please, can we stop talking about bringing 'closure' to the victims of crime. All this does is make the issue 2 above even worse. The loss of a loved one cannot be closed, and this closure thing just reinforces the unhealthy attitude of eye/eye justice.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Mar 5, 2007 10:53:05 AM

Well, this is more sensible than most, but I definitely don't agree that we lock up people we're mad at rather than afraid of. We look up oodles of inner-city black men, the urban super-criminals and sexual monsters who just might prowl out to the suburbs and prey on unsuspecting, innocent white women. I would say fear drives a great deal of the prison-industrial complex. Why else would society tolerate such immense spending on it?

Posted by: Marshall | Mar 5, 2007 11:16:47 AM

Jimmy,

You make soome really good points. It *IS* supposed to be for the good of society and not as a tool of individuals.
Which brings me to respect for law. It is in society's best interest to honor they legal system. Why is illegal immigration somehow exempt from your respect for the law?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 5, 2007 12:46:33 PM

David from Lawyers, Guns and Money referred me to this link; it's good stuff. Thanks for posting it, Ezra. Like David said in the comments to this post of mine, I can't imagine anything good coming out of any Republican administration anytime soon, thanks to the legacy of Bush. But Huckabee is at least a Republican who is trying to make his Christian social conservatism work in an egalitarian sense, and that is something that this nation needs more of.

Posted by: Russell Arben Fox | Mar 5, 2007 1:02:34 PM

I should be posting this in Salon, but whatever: O'Reilly actually supported mandatory drug treatment instead of incarceration in his first book. He said that the current policy of locking up drug users is insane and going nowhere.

Now, I have no idea if his opinion changed or not (it's possible, I don't watch his show), but it's there in writing for anyone who wants to see.

Posted by: JF | Mar 5, 2007 1:11:58 PM

[Huckabee] has refused to take the predictable path by talking tough on crime to deflect the DuMond criticism.

I'll be surprised if he turns out to be so compassionate to prisoners who didn't rape a Clinton relative.

Posted by: moron | Mar 5, 2007 1:24:12 PM

The mere fact that our penal system is so spectacularly counterproductive in such obvious ways will eventually lead to popular support for views like those of Huckabee. It's good for him to get out in front of the curve a little and lead.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 5, 2007 2:25:12 PM

Which brings me to respect for law. It is in society's best interest to honor they legal system. Why is illegal immigration somehow exempt from your respect for the law?

Mr. Jones, it's possible that just as with the take on criminal law quoted in the post, JimPortlandOR would approach illegal immigration from the mindset of Messrs. Huckabee and Brownback:

"And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."
--Leviticus 19:33-34

"For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
--Deuteronomy 10:17-19

"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:"
--Matthew 25:35

At least some of this is directed specifically at the Israelites, but so were those commandments that many fundamentalist Christians want in government buildings.

Now, I'm not saying that "God's law" should necessarily trump "Man's law" in the US, but surely you can understand why observant Jews and conservative Christians would naturally be more tolerant towards illegal immigration.

Posted by: mds | Mar 5, 2007 2:51:11 PM

Hey, I like democracy. That means laws passed through a democractic process and voted on by duly elected representatives should be obeyed.

Maybe you like somthing else.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 5, 2007 3:00:50 PM

This is totally off-topic, but I used to work at the diner mentioned in this story. Weird.

Posted by: Greg | Mar 5, 2007 3:14:36 PM

Another aspect of Huckabee that lefty bloggers seem to be missing is that he pushed for Arkansas to give in-state college tuition to the children of illegal immigrants, and he opposed a bill that would have required people to prove citizenship before receiving state services (condemning the bill as "race-baiting demagoguery"). (I'm linking to right-wing sources, so that you can see the criticism he's gotten from some quarters.)

According to one article:

On his signature issue, health care, Huckabee has been credited with innovative public health strategies to curb childhood obesity and reduce the use of tobacco. He was a strong advocate of ARKids First, a program adopted by the legislature that expanded health insurance coverage for children of lower-income parents.

When it comes to fiscal policy, however, Huckabee is all over the map. He proclaims his fierce opposition to taxing and spending, of course, saying in his official biography that he “pushed through the Arkansas legislature the first major, broad-based tax cuts in state history” and “led efforts to establish a Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.” Yet he has raised taxes several times during his tenure as governor, and once defended himself by saying, “What do our critics want — to rip the feeding tubes out of an 8-year-old or an elderly person on Medicaid?”

Bush used to talk about "compassionate conservatism," but never did anything about it. Huckabee has, on several fronts, and put his own political capital on the line in doing so. From a liberal perspective, Huckabee might be the best of the Republican pack.

Posted by: John Doe | Mar 5, 2007 3:59:54 PM

In fairness to Huckabee, although DuMond turned out to be a creep (after his release he murdered a woman in Missouri), when a DNA test finds that a convicted rapist is not the person who left the physical evidence at the crime scene--- what exactly is a governor to do?

Leave him in prison so he won't take out his rage (at being falsely convicted) out on innocent people when he's released?

Posted by: beowulf | Mar 5, 2007 5:38:19 PM

John Doe, to clarify Huckabee's position, Arkansas' constitution requires all children, without regard to legal status, to attend school. Therefore, it was Huckabee's opinion that children educated in Arkansas' schools, who graduate and are academically eligible for college, should also be eligible for in-state tuiton. Its logical, but more importantly the point is moot in 90% of cases. Vast numbers of these children were born in the U.S., making them U.S. citizens; for those who are not, most colleges have been giving them in-state tuition anyway. The entire discussion in Arkansas came about because a bigoted (and now defeated) legislator attemped to pass a bill banning these existing practices.

Posted by: BSR | Mar 5, 2007 6:26:36 PM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 27, 2007 11:56:11 PM

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