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Conservative Profiles


John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Bush in 2001 after a career as Attorney General, Governor, and Senator of Missouri. He is widely known for his ultra-conservative religious and Christian right-wing political views, such as his opposition to abortion and gun control and his support for the death penalty. In enforcing these views from his position in federal government, he has defied states' rights, such as his repeated attempts to challenge Oregon's assisted suicide law. He is also known for his enthusiastic support for and influence on the War on Drugs. His measures have included nationwide investigations targeting businesses that sell drug paraphernalia, support for more stringent law enforcement against casual drug users, and a successful push for stricter federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenses. As Attorney General, he encouraged security and anti-terrorism measures that promoted "safety" while infringing on privacy of U.S. citizens, using the "state of war" as an excuse to trample civil liberties. Soon after September 11th, Ashcroft pushed The Patriot Act through Congress. The Patriot Act increased the powers of investigators and prosecutors that had been established under the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act; the second incarnation of the Act, "Patriot Act II", broadens even more the powers of surveillance and arrest. An evangelical who does not smoke, drink, or dance, Ashcroft alarmed advocates of church-state separation-of which he has been a vocal foe-when he began conducting daily prayer sessions with Justice Department employees. Ashcroft resigned from his post as Attorney General on November 9, 2004. During his final hours in office, Ashcroft demanded that Congress "reinstitute tough sentences and certain justice for criminals." Upon resignation, he submitted a hand-written letter which stated, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

William Bennett

Bennett has been an influential force for the Right since his days in the Reagan and Bush #1 administrations. He was chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Secretary of Education for Reagan and the Director of National Drug Policy (the "drug czar") for George Bush. His prolific output of 16 books (such as The Book of Virtues, The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, and with John DiIulio and John Walters Body Count: Moral Poverty... and How to Win America's War against Crime and Drugs), speeches (his own and as a speechwriter for George W. Bush), and start-up right-wing organizations (Empower America, the National Commission on Civic Renewal, and AVOT: Americans for Victory Over Terrorism) all reflect Bennett's ability to keep his face and ideas in the spotlight as does his daily radio talk show, Bill Bennett's Morning in America. In 2003 revelations about his involvement with high stakes gambling temporarily tarnished his reputation as a purveyor of morality.

Robert Bidinotto

As a free-lance writer, Robert Bidinotto published articles in numerous journals, most notably The Freeman and Readers Digest. He was the editor of Criminal Justice? The Legal System Versus Individual Responsibility, and is currently a senior writer and speaker for The Objectivist Center and director of The Atlas Society. Bidinotto gained national recognition for his article on Willie Horton, entitled "Getting Away with Murder." The article, about a convicted murderer who committed violent crimes when he did not return from a Massachusetts prison weekend leave, was used by presidential Republican candidate George Bush for his anti-crime, pro-victim platform as an attack on his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis.

Bidinotto accuses liberals, intellectuals, therapists, counselors, lawyers, and the like of comprising an "excuse-making industry" of taking the blame away from criminals and placing it on social, biological, or economic causes. Bidinotto claims that lenient sentences, plea bargaining, rehabilitation, probation, and parole undermine the rights of victims and the punitive aim of imprisonment. Moreover, he believes that rehabilitation and reintegration, are flawed concepts because they assume that criminals act, feel, and think like normal people, which he claims they do not. Generally speaking, he blames crime on criminals with low moral standing and believes it can only be alleviated via tough sentencing and restoring moral order to society.

Alfred Blumstein

Alfred Blumstein is the director of the National Consortium on Violence Research. In the past, he has served as the director of the Task Force on Science and Technology in the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice from 1966-67, chairman of National Academy of Sciences Committee on Research on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice from 1979-1984, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency from 1979 to 1990, and on the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing from 1986-96. His research has included crime measurement, criminal careers, sentencing, deterrence and incapacitation, prison populations, demographic trends, juvenile violence, and drug-enforcement policy.

William Bratton

William Bratton, formerly Chief of Police in Boston and New York City, was appointed 54th Los Angeles Police Department's Chief in October of 2002. He is a leading advocate of community policing, which integrates police into communities instead of waiting to respond to calls. Placing particular emphasis on gang-related crimes and "the culture that creates them," Bratton advocates a "get-tough" policy and helped to promote the "broken window" theory of police work: "clamp down even on two-bit crimes like graffiti and urinating in public, or an atmosphere of neglect will lead to more serious crime." In New York, Bratton's technique for lowering the crime rate was flooding high-crime areas with police presence until the rate dropped. Bratton initiated the COMPSTAT system, a computer-driven management accountability process that is an integral part of his decentralized management philosophy.

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson is a former White House "hatchet man" in service to Richard Nixon. He was incarcerated for seven months for Watergate-related charges, and later founded the Prison Fellowship Ministries to convert prisoners to Christianity. At the center of his ministry is the theory that crime is "fundamentally a moral and spiritual problem that requires a moral and spiritual solution" and that the only true hope for prisoner rehabilitation is to encourage them to "turn to Christ." Colson also holds hard-line right-wing views on most social issues, using the "winding road to bestiality and incest" argument in criticizing the overturning of Texas sodomy laws, warning against rival (Muslim) missionaries in prisons, advocating for the use of Old Testament law in the modern criminal justice system, and interpreting the legality of abortion not only as the justification of infanticide but as a symptom of the government's hostility towards religion. Colson frequently refers to his post-Watergate conversion as the impetus for his current work and beliefs.

John Dilulio

John Dilulio became notorious in the 1990s for inventing and perpetuating the theory of the young inner-city black men "superpredators" who grow up surrounded by criminals and without family structure, becoming the remorseless criminals of the future. He predicted an "explosion" of such criminal youth, feeding on the racist fears of White America to perpetuate his rhetoric, and was endorsed by established figures such as Rudolph Giuliani and conservative organizations such as the Brookings Institution and the Manhattan Institute. Although the theory proved false, the "superpredator" mania lead to a devastating wave of "get-tough" juvenile crime laws, such as those instituted in 1995 by former California Governor Pete Wilson, who focused on the racist criminalization of ghetto-ized black boys, urging their lengthy incarceration. Dilulio later stepped away from (though did not recant) the superpredator theory, shifting his focus after a "religious reawakening" as a Roman Catholic and temporarily serving under George W. Bush as director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Dilulio quit the post in 2001. He now claims never having intended to put more juveniles in prison and advocates filling "churches, not prisons."

James Alan Fox

Dubbed "The Dean of Death", James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice and former dean at the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. He studies multiple murder, juvenile crime, school violence, workplace violence, and capital punishment and is considered an expert on homicide, producing books and documentaries that seek to "enter the minds" of notorious serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer. He has co-authored a book, Overkill, which seeks to categorize serial killers into three divisions: those who murder for thrills, those who believe they have a mission, and those who kill for expediency or profit. He has also spoken and written about the ways in which "characteristics of killers" can be identified in young children.

Robert Martinson

Robert Martinson, a New York criminologist, was a liberal who believed that the apparent lack of success of rehabilitation in prison predicted the end to prisons as we know them. Martinson was one of the researchers involved in a survey of 231 studies on offender rehabilitation entitled The Effectiveness of Correctional Treatment: A Survey of Treatment Evaluation Studies, which was to become the most politically important criminological study of the late 20th century. His views that "nothing works" to prevent recidivism were enthusiastically embraced by the national press. Conservatives used his results to justify a campaign of removing education and social programs from prisons. Martinson committed suicide in 1980.

Morgan Reynolds

Morgan Reynolds is the former director of the Criminal Justice Center for the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis. The Center's stated goal is "to develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector." He is considered an "expert" in the area of juvenile crime, using the "blame parents first" model which traces the modern prevalence of juvenile crime to a weakening sense of morality and parents' lack of moral confidence in setting boundaries and disciplining their kids. He has written, "terms like 'social justice' or 'restorative justice' smack of European socialism and gooey government programs lead by woolly headed do-gooders."

He promotes "get tough" measures and "increased security" at all costs in schools and advocates for the importance of securing justice "for the victims", concentrating on a "privatized and victim-oriented criminal justice system". At the very root of his ideology is the belief that criminals "choose" a life of crime as a result of a lack of principles. He continues to assert that the "get tough" measures and increased incarceration are responsible for the drop in crime rates, deterring crimes through inspiring fear of punishment.

The Rev. Eugene Rivers

The Rev. Eugene F. Rivers 3rd is a Boston Pentacostalist minister, the founder of the National Ten Point Leadership Coalition, and a nationally-known speaker on church-law enforcement crime prevention partnerships. His background as an anti-gang crusader and his success with Boston's Ten Point Coalition and its contribution to substantially reducing the homicide rate in Boston attracted the attention of John DiIulio [link] who was eager to incorporate its approach into federally-funded faith-based initiatives. A strong supporter of George W. Bush until DiIulio left Bush's administration, Rev. Rivers' style has been characterized as "high octane" and "charismatic," as well as "controversial" and "taunting."

James Q. Wilson

James Q. Wilson is one of the most influential conservative thinkers about crime in the United States. A Harvard professor of Political Science for most of his career, he is the James A. Collins Professor of Management and Public Policy Emeritus at UCLA and a Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. He also served on the President's Council on Bioethics. He has argued against hate crime laws and advocates a theory of crime as a function of choice informed by social environment, biological makeup ("some people are born with predispositions that lead to crime if circumstances do not send them off in other directions"), and family relationships. He has written against the "abuse excuse." He also subscribes to the school of thought that places the majority of responsibility for preventing crime on child-rearing practices.

 



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