Justice Reform Is At An Historic Crossroad Bob Barr Bob Barr for TOWNHALLWhile professional athletes like second-string NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick engage in immature “protests” over some perceived peeve with our country’s criminal justice system, Republicans in Congress are diligently working to meaningfully improve America’s justice system. Whether they succeed in their historic effort, however, remains up in the air and its future may very well be decided this week.Currently, three bills pending in the U.S. House – the Sentencing Reform Act, the Recidivism Risk Reduction Act, and the Criminal Code Improvement Act — remain backed by bipartisan coalitions both inside and outside the government. As anyone who has maintained even a passing acquaintance with congressional goings-on in recent years knows, cooperation between Left and Right on any issue is unusual; and something that is extremely rare on a matter as substantive as criminal justice reform.While the “social justice” movement espoused by far Left radicals like Black Lives Matter has poisoned much of the public debate surrounding justice reform, genuine criminal justice reform lead by Republicans in the House and Senate, is a truly worthy cause that all conservatives should support. As highlighted recently in remarks by FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon in support of the proposals, “Our justice system is in crisis. Our prison populations and budgets have ballooned out of control. Americans are being crippled by sentences disproportional to their crime. Our system should rehabilitate and reform those in need, not warehouse nonviolent offenders and burden our nation.”Far more than in the past, support for criminal justice reform among conservatives is growing; with many of the reforms touching on principles long-favored by conservatives. For example, even as the current proposed reforms strengthen due process rights – a principle not always championed by traditional conservatives – at the same time they would begin to reverse the trend toward systemic over-criminalization that long has bothered conservatives, and which distracts police officers from pursuing real criminal activity such as violent crimes.Also, the reforms incorporated in the pending legislation would help to keep families together; a benefit conservatives have argued for years would dramatically help reduce poverty and steer young people away from future criminal behavior. And, perhaps most important to conservatives, the Sentencing Reform Act alone is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to save $769 million in taxpayer funds, by finally addressing prison overcrowding.Criminal justice reform truly is a historic win for conservative values. Unfortunately, this is precisely why its critics resort to fear-mongering, not facts, in attempting to derail this landmark effort.One need only look to several conservative states that have enacted similar criminal justice reform bills, to see the benefits of what is now being proposed nationally. States including Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina have witnessed significant drops in incarceration rates and criminal recidivism, as a direct result of state-level criminal justice reforms. Taxpayers in these states have enjoyed the added benefit of saving millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on a broken system. “Texas used to spend billions locking people up for minor offenses,” former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who helped spearhead reform in his state, remarked on his efforts. “We implemented common sense policies that made not only Texas tough, but also smart on crime.”Perry justifiably calls these results “extraordinary,” noting that already the crime rate in the Lone Star State has dropped to its lowest levels since 1968, while saving its taxpayers nearly $2.0 billion.This is why the efforts now underway in Congress, spearheaded by GOP leaders Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, are so critical. The current prison crisis worsens with each new inmate added to the federal prison system by an outdated sentencing structure that allows for little, if any discretion for judges to differentiate between drug kingpins and non-violent, low level offenders. And, with more than 4,000 federal criminal laws on the books already, and countless more overlapping regulatory and state laws, criminal justice reform reduces the risk that innocent and otherwise non-violent offenders will be swept into the ruinous criminal justice system that should be focusing on the truly heinous criminals.We stand at the crossroads of a truly historic moment in America, in which a decades-overdue overhaul of the criminal justice system promises to make our country a far better place in which to pursue the American dream. The conservative case for sentencing reform is clear, and the time for action is now.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmail
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The top-25 players – and ties – at the end of tomorrow’s play will secure their cards for next year.Damien McGrane, Paul Dunne, Kevin Phelan and Simon Thornton all resume this morning, with McGrane the best-placed of those on 8-under par.
A Tennessee teenager has died from injuries she sustained in a bizarre dog attack.Adrieanna O’Shea died Friday after being hospitalized for over a week.The 19-year-old was attempting to retrieve her purse at a neighbor’s home when several dogs mauled her.A witness told authorities that she heard O’ shea screaming “Help me” and saw a neighbor’s dogs attacking her.The animals reportedly tossed her into the air, and then dragged her body toward a wooded area.Knox County sheriff’s deputies said they found O’ shea unconscious and covered in bite wounds at the scene.Deputies shot one dog and the four others were later euthanized.Police described the dogs as a mastiff, a Rottweiler-Lab mix, two mastiff-Lab mixes, and a Pitbull.The young girl reportedly dreamed of becoming a history teacher and traveling the world. It is unclear at this time whether criminal charges will be filed in the case.
FILE – In this April 28, 2014, file photo, Miami Heat’s LeBron James smiles as he walks down the court during the second half in Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Charlotte Bobcats in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)MIAMI (AP) – Savannah James will not have a say in scheduling for the Eastern Conference semifinals. In the interim, her husband seems to be letting her call plenty of shots.And if she decides that “Spider-Man 2” trumps watching more first-round NBA playoff games, LeBron James will be spending a night off at the movies.“It’s up to what she wants to do,” James said, smiling.Such are the perks of having idle time during the postseason. But those date nights better get squeezed in quickly, since the latest long break between playoff games for the Heat will finally be ending soon enough. Off since finishing off their first-round sweep of Charlotte on Monday, the Heat will open their next postseason series at home either Sunday or Tuesday against Toronto or Brooklyn.With no opponent to lock in on, the Heat practiced Friday focused on one team – the Heat.“We’re just working on what we do,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said Friday afternoon. “That’s the best thing we can do right now, work on our defense, spacing, offensive characteristics, working on our habits and everything and staying in shape. That’s what it’s about. We can’t worry about anybody because we don’t have an opponent right now. We’ll see what happens.”It’s not like the time off has been uneventful.There were some very significant events. James had some of the sharpest comments offered by any player after the NBA decided to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life over racist comments. And all that happened while the organization mourned the death of Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay, a one-time Heat broadcaster who was revered within the team’s inner circle.There were also many ordinary-seeming items: Samsung Mobile released an app giving fans another way to track James’ doings, the four-time NBA MVP was getting plenty of treatment on a bad thigh bruise that he said was vastly improved by Friday, the latest collection of Wade-designed socks were unveiled, Mario Chalmers’ daughter had a birthday and Shane Battier fought off an illness.Battier returned to work Friday, which meant he missed a mandatory – and, word was, grueling – conditioning session the previous day.“I heard about that,” Battier said. “If nothing else, it was an opportune time to get sick, so I hear. A lot of teammates were using choice four-letter words to describe me and my absence. I assured them it was not planned. It was serendipitous from that standpoint.”Heat coach Erik Spoelstra likened Friday’s practice to one more akin to training camp, with plenty of contact, mouthguards in and knee-pads up because of all that hitting. Bosh said he didn’t mind, even adding that practice went longer than planned because of how competitive things were getting.Clearly, an off day was no day off.“This probably made us all feel a little bit more normal, having a full-padded, braced, mouthguarded practice,” said Spoelstra, whose team dealt with two breaks of about a week during last year’s playoff run. “Guys got after it.”Spoelstra said there was no mention of things specific to planning for Toronto or Brooklyn during the practice – which James called a “Hunger Games” style session, with 10 minutes of warming up and then nothing but “straight contact” the rest of the way.Spoelstra said his staff had about 80 percent of the scouting work done for both potential second-round opponents. Plus, by now, the Heat are plenty familiar with both anyway, James said.So if his wife wants one more movie night before he goes back into playoff mode, that’s fine with the four-time MVP.“I’ve seen enough,” James said.
The Baltimore Orioles-Chicago White Sox game at Camden Yards on Wednesday will be played under the rarest of circumstances — in front of an entirely empty stadium. Due to public unrest in Baltimore after the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died this month while in police custody, Orioles officials decided Tuesday to close the game to fans.Wednesday’s game appears to be a first. According to Baseball-Reference.com’s database, no major league game since 1914 has been staged in an empty stadium. The sport’s official historian, John Thorn, tweeted that the previous record for the lowest attendance at a major league game was six — a mark set all the way back in 1882.In other sports, however, empty stadiums are a bit more common. For instance, the authors Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim note in their book “Scorecasting” that in Italy alone, more than 20 soccer matches have been held before empty stadiums. The authors use those games, and the research of Swedish economists Per Pettersson-Lidbom and Mikael Priks, to support their case that home-field advantage (across various sports) is mostly driven by referee bias favoring the home team.The findings from empty-stadium games suggest that fans do influence the refs. In their original paper, Pettersson-Lidbom and Priks found the typical officiating advantage home teams enjoy (at least in terms of foul calls) to be substantially reduced when fans were removed, even after controlling for the specific teams and referees involved.Research about home-field advantage in baseball has demonstrated that while umpires do show bias toward the home team in terms of strike-zone calls, it doesn’t have much of an effect on who wins. But a later study showed that umpires’ tendencies to vary the shape of the strike zone in favor of the home team became heightened as the leverage index of the game situation increased.In other words, if it’s the case that baseball umpires are influenced by pressure of the crowd around them — particularly in big moments — the Orioles will be playing under unusually neutral conditions for a game at Camden Yards.It goes without saying that one game, however crowdless, isn’t much of a sample in baseball. But the effect it will have on the umpires is an additional wrinkle to keep an eye on during Wednesday’s unique matchup.UPDATE(April 29, 11:55 a.m.): After reaching out to Baseball-Reference’s Sean Forman, we learned that the attendance number we quoted for a 1930 Giants-Reds game, 10, may be incorrect due to a clerical error in Retrosheet.org‘s data. The reference to that game has been removed.