Obama backing off strict crime policy

Josh Gerstein

For years, it was one of the GOP’s most potent political epithets – labeling a Democrat “soft on crime.”

But the Obama White House has taken the first steps in decades to move away from a strict lock-‘em-up mentality on crime – easing sentences for crack cocaine possession, launching a top-to-bottom review of sentencing policies and even sounding open to reviewing guidelines that call for lengthy prison terms for people convicted of child pornography offenses.

The moves – still tentative, to be sure — suggest that President Barack Obama’s aides are betting that the issue has lost some of its punch with voters more worried about terrorism and recession. In one measure of the new political climate surrounding the issue, the Obama administration actually felt free to boast that the new crack-sentencing bill would go easier on some drug criminals.

“The Fair Sentencing Act marks the first time in 40 years that Congress has reduced a mandatory minimum sentence,” said White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, who billed the new legislation as “monumental.”

Obama’s signing of long-debated legislation last month to reduce the disparity between prison sentences for crack and powdered cocaine is being hailed by some advocates as a watershed moment in the nation’s approach to criminal justice.

And even with a tough election looming, the Democratic Congress is showing a willingness to consider moving away from incarceration and towards rehabilitation and out-of-prison punishments that might have been attacked in the 1990s as the coddling of criminals.

The article continues at Politico.

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