Public security: more police and reforms

Subject: “On the side of public safety, not criminals” [June 5, Opinion]:

Republican leader of the state Senate, John Braun, argues that voters should side with security and the police, not criminals. But it is possible to do both simultaneously.

Many of us want to hire more police, make our streets safer, protect our homes, and prosecute property crimes. But we can also support prison sentence reform to reduce mass incarceration and improve our abysmal prison system. Braun fears sentencing reform will “flood neighborhoods with hardened criminals, including rapists and murderers.”

But many young men (disproportionately from minorities) do not enter the prison system as hardened criminals. Many entered the system through plea bargaining to avoid the threat of longer sentences. Mandatory sentencing laws eliminate rewards for good behavior, remove incentives to change lives, and cost the state millions of dollars that could be used to improve social conditions.

A compassionate society must recognize the harm caused by a criminal justice system based on retributive rather than restorative justice.

John C. Bean, Vashon