Prison Reform: An Unlikely Alliance of Left and Right

Post Date: August 17, 2013

(The Economist/Molly Gill quoted) — Eric Holder and Rick Perry have little in common. America’s attorney-general is black, liberal and uses the word “community” a lot. The governor of Texas is white, conservative and says “God” a lot. Last month Mr Holder’s Justice Department sued Texas for allegedly trying to make it harder for blacks to vote. Last year Mr Perry ran to unseat Mr Holder’s boss, Barack Obama.

On one thing, however, the two men agree. On August 12th Mr Holder said: “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason.” He then unveiled reforms to reduce the number of people sent to America’s overcrowded federal prisons. In this, he was following the perfectly-coiffed Texan’s lead. Several years ago, Mr Perry enacted similar reforms in the Lone Star State, and they worked.

Molly Gill of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a pressure group, says that after years of campaigning against discretion-free mandatory sentences, it feels at last as though her group is “pushing against an open door”. And “open door” is not a phrase you often hear in the same breath as “American prisons”. Read more