Criminal Justice

When you’re talking about crime, you must tell voters how your policies will make them safer, not how they benefit the criminal.

Don’t say . . .

Say . . .

Rights (of criminals)


Security, safety, protection



Do not begin a discussion of crime with the ideas of fairness or equal opportunity. Persuadable voters want to know how your criminal justice policies protect them. Explain how your solutions make citizens safer. That’s what all good progressive criminal justice policies accomplish—they prevent crime, reduce recidivism and improve the quality of life for everyone.

Conversely, right wing policies—like giving long prison sentences to nonviolent drug offenders—take hundreds of millions of dollars away from strategies that more effectively fight drug abuse and prevent crime.

Say . . .

Among the most fundamental jobs of government is to protect residents from crime. I want to make law-abiding people safer. For serious felons, we should lock ’em up for a long time. For nonviolent and young offenders we need to do everything we can to divert them from crime and make sure they don’t become hardened criminals. For example, nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to treatment facilities instead of regular prisons are far less likely to commit future crimes. My opponent’s policies would throw those people in jail with violent felons and make them more likely to victimize us when they get out. That’s the wrong approach. I favor a justice system designed to reduce crime and make all of us safer and more secure.

Why . . .

Everyone wants safer communities. But what if the progressive policy is specifically about the rights of the accused? For example, policies to require electronic recording of interrogations, reform police procedures for lineups, and create commissions to research whether imprisoned people are actually innocent.

Emphasize that for every wrongly convicted person there is an actual perpetrator who has escaped justice and remains a threat to our public safety. Don’t blame the police, but suggest that there are more modern practices that have been proven to work better than current police procedures. Say that we owe it to the victim, as well as the whole community, to find and punish the real criminal. For example:

Say . . .

An important part of my job is [or will be] to help protect you from crime. The question is, which policies make you safer? A lot of other jurisdictions get better evidence from suspects and witnesses by requiring that all police questioning be recorded electronically. It eliminates disputes about what was said, it protects the innocent and makes it easier to convict the guilty. I’m not saying our police have done anything wrong in the past, it’s just that technology has changed rapidly and we should take advantage of it. If we can do something that simple to help get some felons off our streets, it’s my responsibility to make it happen—so we can all be safer and more secure. 

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