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Why Criminal Justice Reform Could Work Now
An op-ed by Noah Feldman.
The criminal justice reform bill unveiled Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators is an attempt to answer a classic conundrum of political science: It’s easy for elected officials to vote for increased sentences, but who ever got elected on a platform of being softer on crime? If the bill passes, the reason will be partly a response to the racial injustice of overimprisonment as a result of mandatory-minimum sentences, a cause taken up by the Black Lives Matter protests. It will also reflect libertarian concerns about the overcriminalization of American life, and a distinctly conservative worry about the rising costs of imprisonment.
The Boston Globe
Feel guilty: You’ll help society
‘So if we are going to be kind,” wrote the South African author J. M. Coetzee, “let it be out of simple generosity, not because we feel guilty.” The notion that we should give our time and resources to others because we enjoy being benevolent is a compelling ethos. But research shows that it is not that simple: Oftentimes when we feel bad about ourselves, we are, in fact, more likely to do good things...Cass Sunstein
and I found a similar result — that guilt is a powerful motivator — in a recent experimental study at Harvard Law School. We surveyed some 1,200 Americans and asked them whether they would be interested in enrolling in a green energy program if their state government offered them the opportunity to join one. The respondents who said that they would feel guilty if they did not enroll had a higher likelihood of being interested in signing up.
A panoply of achievement
The celebration inside the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal ceremony was tempered by some harsh truths: The fight for African-American equality is not over, there is more work to be done, and everyone is implicated. On the heels of a bruising year that saw the deaths of Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland while in police custody, and the mass killings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research on Wednesday afternoon honored seven luminaries whose pivotal social and cultural contributions follow in Du Bois’ footsteps and “represent both the triumphs of the work that has been done and the vastness of the work that needs to be done,” said Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his opening remarks...In presenting the medal to [Eric] Holder, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow
said his “priorities as attorney general showed a man committed to transformative change and the work that it entails: defending the president’s health care reform, advocating for equal marriage, espousing immigration reform, commitment to changing the criminal-justice system, and fervently opposing the recent and ugly chipping away of voting rights.”