Paul and Booker on Criminal-Justice Reform

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Like Eli Lehrer, I’m sympathetic to the goals of the senators’ new bill. But I have reservations about its means, at least if Ed O’Keefe’s write-up in the Washington Post is accurate.

Currently 10 states set the age at which someone can be tried in adult criminal court below 18, a move that the senators said in their statement “sends countless kids into the unforgiving adult criminal system.” In hopes of reversing the trend, Booker and Paul propose giving states that change the minimum age preference when applying for federal community police grants. The same preference would be given to states that allow nonviolent offenders to petition to have their criminal records sealed. 

I’m not sure I like this method of trying to get the states to do what federal lawmakers want them to do. I’m even less sure it fits with Senator Paul’s principles. Shouldn’t he be for abolishing these grants, rather than using them to get a say in what state governments do?