As Trump begins to assemble his cabinet, serious concerns exist not only about the ways in which progress may be eroded, but also about how local police and state criminal justice systems will be used to carry out an agenda that has already been sharply focused on deporting immigrants. Here’s just a few concerns on the national horizon:
Deportations, Ice and “Sanctuary Cities” – While the incoming administration has used a recent figure of 2-3 million “criminals” it plans to deport, there is no evidence to tie large numbers of immigrants to criminal activities. Is the plan to pay for the incarceration of immigrants who may have committed traffic or other minor offenses? What role will our criminal justice systems be asked to play and how much will it cost in dollars and human lives?
More Emphasis on “Law and Order”/ Less on Community-Based Policing – Under Eric Holder and Lorretta Lynch, the Justice Department has played a key role in developing strategies for bridging the growing gap between communities and police. When necessary they’ve investigated law enforcement agencies for a “pattern or practice” of violating civil rights and reached agreements in consent decrees. These investigations are likely to be significantly decreased.
Mass Incarceration and Racial Bias – Both parties bear responsibility for creating policies that have resulted in mass incarceration, damaged the African-American community and increased the nation’s prison populations. The incoming administration sends strong signals it is moving in the wrong direction by embracing people like former Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Arizona who have a reputation for divisive and demeaning policing and incarceration strategies.
Stop and Frisk – this widely debunked policy has strong support from Rudy Guliani who may now be in a position to promote it across the country.
More Private Prisons – since the election, stock prices have soared in the private prison industry. Recent decisions made by the Obama administration to end private prison contracts could now be overturned. Don’t be surprised to see a costly growth in private detention units – particularly those that hold immigrants and their families waiting for hearings. Those expenditures will enrich private companies and divert funds that are desperately needed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.
Death Penalty – Trump has promised to appoint conservative Supreme Court Justices. While most capital cases take place at the state level, it will likely take longer for a new and more conservative Supreme Court to recognize and affirm the nation’s move away from the death penalty.
Funding for Re-entry and Alternatives to Prison – Federal funds have been an important source of revenue for community-based re-entry efforts, drug treatment courts and innovative diversion programs. If the new administration moves ahead with the level of tax cuts that have been discussed, we can expect to see dramatic budget cuts within federally funded programs.
Hate Groups – Trump’s election has unleashed the rhetoric of white hate groups like the Klan and Neo-nazis. This is a path that must never be normalized in American society. The murders at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston are more than enough recent evidence of the pain and destruction that continues to result from individuals aligning themselves with these hate groups.