From Dallas to Manhattan, one common trend resonates through America, “End Mass Incarceration Now.” From Black Lives Matter to Blue Lives Matter, it is no surprise that police brutality, specifically the violence imposed on Brown communities has become a mainstream of discourse, but its new profound political discourse is a pleasant but unexpected surprise.
Sarah Stockman, author of the NYT article, How ‘End Mass Incarceration’ Became a Slogan for D.A. Candidates reflects upon the political shift in District Attorney races from tough on crime stances, to promises to reform criminal justice.
The NYT articles highlights the re-election victory of a Dallas District Attorney, Faith Johnson, a Black female Republican who formed her election campaign on criminal justice reform. Her Democratic competitor, a white male, lost the election with an antiquated message to be tougher on crime.
This trend follows on the heels of Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, a white, male Republican, notorious for his “keep Manhattan safe” is also singing a new tune, one that echos rehabilitation versus incarceration.
On 10/24/2018, D.A. Vance delivered the keynote remarks at the NYS Corrections and Youth Services Association Symposium. Wasting no time, he set the tone for his upcoming November 6, 2018 re-election,
The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office is a safer New York and a fairer justice system. As applied to incarceration, that means our job is to keep Manhattan as safe as possible, using not one more day of jail than is necessary. That is the overall ethos that contemporary prosecutors’ officers need to work with in order to reduce mass incarceration safely and significantly (NYS Corrections and Youth Services Association Symposium, Oct. 2018).
Is Ending Mass Incarceration truly the new era of humanity?
Or is it simply a campaign tactic to appease Brown voters?
It’s hard to say.
Proposals for criminal justice reform juxtapose the stiff prosecution of non-violent drug policies advanced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Meanwhile states are slowly decriminalizing marijuana use and the New York Stock Exchange is now publicly trading marijuana stock as of 10/23/2018.
In a heated election cycle that influences executive branch power, elected Republicans are arguably threatened by the partisan alliance that connects them to the fiery, often unpredictable rhetoric of President Trump. Whereas crime reform was once a polarizing topic reserved for Brown Democratic constituents, Republicans such as D.A. Vance and D.A. Faith have co-signed to the justice reform agenda, hopefully for genuine gains.
Nonetheless, this is the perfect political climate to capitalize off criminal justice change. Activists (in)directly impacted by incarceration can rally to amplify the emotional and financial impact of mass incarceration and later hold elected officials accountable to the campaign promises that helped catapult them to power.
After a century of convict labor camps and unjust punitive punishment, policymakers are adapting. Mass incarceration may not end right now, but one thing is for certain, it is on schedule to end sometime soon.