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these famous people stepping up, they mean well but they do not know what they do not know. host: you had a lot of issues there. guest: i want to say thank you so much for your service and what you had been doing for a path decade to help people who are incarcerated. you are right. i think one of the mistakes we have made in our movement -- and we have to be honest about this -- i think in the beginning of the criminal justice reform push, we were scared to bring law-enforcement to the table. prosecutors,icers, sheriffs, jailers. we were afraid to have them at the table to talk about these issues because we assumed from the jump that they would be upload to any type of reform. that was a mistake.
actually, when we finally sit down and talk, and i have a personal experience with this, by and we sit down and talk with law enforcement, not talking past each other but to each other, we have the same goals in mind. fact, so many members of law enforcement have innovative ideas on how to make our justice system fairer and more effective. to your point on having these celebrities -- i am from kentucky, we do not have a deep appreciation for celebrities other than basketball players. i get it. i get your point. we need law-enforcement at the table leading the charge. i am grateful the fraternal order of police endorsed the first step act, which was wonderful. kentucky, rob sanders, the
toughest of the tough on crime prosecutors emma had an innovative program with a rehabilitation facility where he was diverting a lot of individuals who would have been to thisd of felonies rehabilitation facility that has .ad success for forever, rob and i were at odds with each other and we met in the middle, the really and figuratively, in kentucky to talk about our goals, we had a lot in common. it was on me and the reform thatnity for not ensuring rob and his colleagues in law enforcement were not at the table at leading the charge. i am hopeful moving forward that you and your colleagues and prosecutors and police officers
will be helping shape this movement and ensure we are doing it in a responsible way. so many of you, the vast the best interests of the american people at heart. let's talk to ben, who is in law enforcement and calling from maryland. good morning. caller: good morning. good morning to your guest. enforcement, i have been almost 30 years now. i have seen it go. every year, it seems to transform itself in different directions. we are locking and warehousing and throwing the key away to well attended programs that did not quite work for various
reasons to not what i see particularly the district of columbia. toore holistic approach dealing with the issues from a mental health and a well-rounded perspective. what i've learned is that there are a lot of people who at a very young age, may have done -- committed these crimes. and just received sentences that are 20 years, 30 years, 40 years. and a lot of them have truly done a lot to reform themselves and have taken advantage of what has been offered them, not only from an educational standpoint or a job-training standpoint, but from a holistic standpoint
of transforming themselves, to where they actually can reflect upon the different things they've done in life, to being remorseful, to wanting to be contributive citizens. it is sad to me, sometimes, when i see these people -- and particularly, if you get a chance, you may want to go to washington, d.c. and see some of the things they have there -- but these people come into society and really be a positive ambassador for transformation in the community on the front and. but it is sad to see some of these people -- and granted, i know when they have done these things -- a person may have committed a crime at 16 or 17 and are now presently at the age of 40, they are two different people. guest: thank you. it is so wonderful to hear this perspective from law enforcement, because, again,
these are the individuals on the front lines, who see the challenges in our justice system every day. and he is exactly right. it is interesting to me -- i worked in republican politics, divisive republican politics, for years. we often used the whole "tough on crime" mantra in so many of our campaigns. now, the vast majority of american people see that being smart on crime is what is truly tough on crime. we have polled, in the justice action network, between 70% and 90% of voters, from the far left to the far right, believe we should be safely reducing incarceration and that we have gone too far with a lot of the
tough on crime policies we put on the books in the 1980's and 1990's. from law enforcement, the callers this morning, to civil rights activists, business leaders, veterans groups, women's groups, family organizations, conservatives, progressives, libertarians -- all across the ideological spectrum, everyone now understands that we have to rightside our justice system. we went too far in the 1980's and 1990's. criminalizing everything. now we have far too many people behind bars. we are one of the world's top incarceraters, and it is really a stain on our nation. certainly with the first step act and yesterday, with a fair chance act, we are trying to right the ship. i am just really grateful for liz and ben and all the members
in law enforcement who are leading the charge and ensuring our justice system is more effective. host: let's talk about specifics for what the first step act has done. here is a report from the justice department. this is from july. over 3100 federal prison inmates will be released from the bureau of prisons custody as a result of the increase in good conduct time under the act. in addition, the retroactive application of the fair sentencing act of 2010, reducing the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine threshold amounts triggering mandatory minimum sentences, has resulted in 1691 sentence reductions. we are still getting callers about state systems. here is a question from jason wanting to know about what has been happening on criminal justice reform in the states. where are the successes?
where should we be looking to see success on criminal justice reform in the states right now? guest: i am so glad you asked. and you hail from a state that has been a great leader in criminal justice reform. the governor, a republican, the previous governor in georgia, was one of the nation's leaders in criminal justice reform policy. i had the opportunity to meet with him with several of our partner groups before he left office. and georgia actually implemented every level of criminal justice reform, from sentencing reform to reentry policies. and this is a man, a republican, who was able to get a unanimous vote on sentencing reform in georgia, which we used the call deep red georgia -- i guess it is a little purple now. the states -- that is where it is at right now. we started with the justice action network in three states.
next year, we will be in 20 states. from progressive states like new york to conservative states like my home commonwealth of kentucky, the first state in the nation to go for donald trump on election night. tennessee will be a huge leader on criminal justice reform. the governor is a business guy, talked about criminal justice reform, was a huge part of his state of the state address. there are conservative governors all over the country -- oklahoma -- who understand that this actually -- as a conservative, i can say criminal justice reform fits perfectly into conservative policy. it is good for families. it ensures we are saving money. it curbs government overreach. there are so many ways that it fits perfectly with conservative policy.
but then, of course, it also is great for progressives, who want to talk about racial and gender disparities and civil rights violations. i have found that my friends on the right and the left are now conflating these issues. there are folks like rand paul, going into the west end of louisville and talking about racial disparities. good friends on the left talking about saving money. i think the states have really been the focus for a long time. in fact, the fair chance act, the second chance employment act that the president signed into law just last night as an amendment to the defense spending bill, even though it is a huge step forward, it will open thousands of federal job opportunities to people who made mistakes but want to turn their lives around. 35 states have already done this. this is not ground breaking
policy. it has been done and has been done in deep red states like kentucky, indiana, oklahoma, arizona. i am really grateful for the caller, jason from atlanta, for bringing up what is happening in the states. the states are the ones, the laboratories of democracy, who have shown us that these policies work, both from a public policy standpoint and ensuring that reform is fair. host: let's go to ed, calling from jackson, tennessee. good morning. caller: i am glad we are talking about this. let me run a few quotes by you -- "it is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished." john adams. guest: amen, ed. caller: what happened to blackstone's ratio? it is an embarrassment.
"all presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously, for the law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." also, we wrote the bill of rights and we have more people locked up than any country in the world. it ruins all of these families. and to quote david kennedy, if you want to ruin a community, lock it up. we over criminalize everything. we have more children locked up. you can back me up on this purity we have more children locked up for life that committed a crime as a juvenile than the rest of the world combined. and you can tell us -- the bard university had debates and beat harvard university. guest: all the smart people are up early on c-span. host: every week.
guest: i couldn't have said it better myself. i am grateful for your call and your learned approach to these issues. i wanted to share with you, as i was getting off the plane last night, coming in from kentucky -- it was a moment. the fair chance act had just been signed into law. two big federal bills back to back, with the first step act and then the fair chance act. i ran into one of your fellow tennesseans, josh smith. he started what is called the fourth purpose -- he spent years in prison, got out, became an entrepreneur, and is now a millionaire. he is taking the money he made and is putting it to a greater purpose, which is ensuring that people behind bars and people
with records have the same opportunities for prosperity and success that he has had. he had just been in d.c. on the hill, talking to our toughest tough on crime lawmakers. he said, i have no interest in being with people who we already have sold on the stuff, i want to meet with the toughest of the tough on crime lawmakers. he really had some great meetings and was going all over the hill with prison fellowship, a wonderful partner of ours at the justice action network. i was really grateful to have that conversation with him, with an individual who spent so many years in prison, who has seen so much success. if i had just walked off the plane and had not known this man, i would have just thought this was just a businessman, a very successful businessman traveling back home, perhaps a lobbyist or lawyer. in fact, he had spent a lot of time in prison.
i thought to myself, if there is one thing that i really hope for this country, it is that we remove the stigma of incarceration and understand that prisoners are humans. they are just like all of us. but for the grace of god, we could all be there. we should not judge people by their worst moments. i've sort of got away, probably, from what ed was talking about -- since he was from tennessee, i wanted to share that story. just really grateful for people now looking into this issue not just from a human perspective , but from a smart data driven perspective. host: i have to bring this topic up -- governor matt bevin issued hundreds of pardons and commutations in kentucky, some of which have become a little controversial, including one that freed a man convicted of
homicide, whose brother held a fundraiser, a political fundraiser, for bevin. where does that justice action network stand on pardons and commutations from the executive power of governors of states, especially on their way out of office? guest: this is really difficult, power of governors of states, because some of the pardons and commutations issued were issued to people that i know personally. i am very proud of my friend, amanda hall, from eastern kentucky, who had been convicted of a drug offense but is such a wonderful person, great mom, great leader, now meets with policymakers across the political spectrum and does incredible work -- actually works with my good friend, the tough on crime prosecuter rob sanders, on responsible smart on crime reforms. what troubles me about this is -- and i will just speak as holly harris here, not as a
spokesperson of justice action network. i think what is troubling is we have to have everyone at the table. i think victims' voices are incredibly important in this process. victims' voices, prosecutors' voices. it has pained me to hear that cries of the families who have had old wounds opened back up through this process. and without judging the pardons or the commutations one way or the other, i would just say it is important to have every voice at the table. and so many voices felt like they were not heard. and that, to me, is not a sustainable movement. that is what we are trying to create through the justice action network, a sustainable movement that has everyone at the table.
that is why it was important that it was bipartisan. it was not so that we would all feel good, reach across the aisle and feel good -- it was strategic, to ensure that, regardless of who came to power, we always had a voice at the table. so in that way, this has really been a challenge and a struggle. i am just hopeful that the people of kentucky -- and i am one of them -- i am hopeful we can come together and continue to move forward and be a national leader in the criminal justice reform movement and that we have a movement where everyone is at the table and everyone is being heard. even despite -- i think there are objections to the previous governor's actions. our senate president and our speaker have still talked about the desire and need to move forward with reforms that will
pivot our commonwealth more to treatment rather than incarcerating these people. it shows me that the reform movement is bigger than any one person, bigger than any one moment in time. this is really an american problem that affects every single american family. so i am hopeful we will continue to move forward and have everybody at the table. host: let's see if we can get a couple more callers in. let's go to a caller from arizona. caller: merry christmas, america. i like your name, holly. do you have a birthday this month? guest: it is actually december 17. host: happy belated. caller: happy birthday. i just want to say a couple of things. i think this is a society thing. my parents were married 65
years. when i was an unruly teenager, they put me in juvie for a week. and guess what? i found i did not like being in jail. then i had identity theft. the only way i could correct it was to go to where it was, get arrested, and put in jail. through this experience, i learned about jail life. and in jail life, you have illegals, and illegals get everything. brand-new shoes, cases of water, and the police officers say you will feel so sorry for them, for the country they are from -- what about americans that are in there for identity theft, for something they did not do? and there is a culture. when these people go into jail, it is like old home week. they know everybody in there.
it is like seeing their family again. what i do not like is do not see justice. you do not allow evidence to be put into a case, so how is that justice? guest: one thing i wanted to -- and there were a lot of issues there, but thank you again for your call. she mentioned that she spent a week in juvie. certainly any of us, if we were exposed to that type of environment for a week, it could be a wake-up call. unfortunately, in this country, we have so many unduly harsh penalties. that, instead of spending a week, you have individuals like alice marie johnson, who was convicted of a first time, nonviolent drug offense, who ended up spending almost 22 years in prison, and it was only because of the president's
actions that she is now free. think about that. two decades in prison for a first time nonviolent drug offense. i have spent considerable time with alice marie johnson -- she is a much better person than i am. just a truly remarkable individual. i just thought to myself, what a tragedy it is that we have so money people, just like her, who are still buried alive behind bars because of these -- admittedly, well-intentioned laws we put in the books in the 1980's and 1990's to try to address the drug epidemic. and we now know it did not work. it did not make us any safer. instead of churning out better citizens, when these individuals are released, we are churning out better criminals. that is not good for society. we are throwing good money after bad, bad money after good.
we are not making communities safer. again, spending a week in jail or prison, i think it could be a wake-up call for any of us. but when individuals convicted of these low level, nonviolent crimes who are good people who make mistakes, end up behind bars for decades, that is a tragedy. that is not justice. we have to be better. host: let's go to joe in florida. joe works in law enforcement. good morning. caller: good morning. i am a retired sergeant in a format representative of the court office of -- i want to ask about your perspective of private prisons. when they came out, mandating sentencing guidelines that essentially handcuffed judges.
we saw stop and frisk come in, and it was abused. i spoke to people in higher crime areas. they welcomed police visibility in those areas, but because it was abused, they had to cease their policy. what we have now is veiled reform leading to profitability. private prisons came about. how do we make sure those private prisons are profitable? by arresting and sentencing more people. guest: amen, joe. the for-profit interest in our justice system, to me, is the greatest challenge we face. i have said it over and over. i hail from the commonwealth of kentucky, where we moved away from for-profit prisons.
there were so many terrible stories of awful things that happened in those prisons. rapes of incarcerated individuals that were covered up. inmates that were hungry and which ultimately, according to many reports, lead to riots. the for-profit interests are disturbing. what is frustrating -- and i do not call them private. as a conservative, we like privatization. and it is interesting -- an individual very close to me, i was trying to reconcile why we as conservatives really like privatization, privatization of government services, but why "private prisons" do not work. he said that you only privatize things you want more of. we do not privatize things that we want less of.
quite frankly, if you are working in the best interest of public safety, you want less crime. that means you want less people in jails and prisons. the for-profit prisons are paid per diem. they have investors and are politically active. it is a real struggle when those facilities open up, because it is almost impossible to close them. i was really proud of our legislature, majority republican in the commonwealth of kentucky, because it included language in our previous budget that disallowed the administration to unilaterally reopen for-profit prison facilities without express legislative consent. i thought that really says thous something about the efficacy of these facilities. your point is well taken. i actually think the for-profit interests in this space are our greatest challenge to moving
forward with reform. and i am hopeful other states will follow the commonwealth of kentucky's lead and ensure that these interests are not at the table, as we are discussing what is best for public safety. >> we would like to thank holly harris, executive director of the justice action network, for being with us today and this great conversation about sentencing and criminal justice reform. holly, they do so much. >> thank you so much, and happy holidays to all of your viewers. i am so grateful so many people called in from all across the country. this has been a great discussion. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] announcer 1: actress and activist jane fonda addresses the national press club on climate change and the environment. than a speech by senator mark warner to the national competitiveness forum. this week on c-span's
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