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The Appeal Podcast: Real Reform vs. Faux Reform

With Appeal senior staff reporter, and co-host of the Justice in America podcast, Josie Duffy Rice.

Wikimedia Commons user Saffie 55

The Appeal Podcast: Real Reform vs. Faux Reform

With Appeal senior staff reporter, and co-host of the Justice in America podcast, Josie Duffy Rice.


“Criminal justice reform” has become a trendy term in recent years and, for many prospective presidential candidates, will be a major talking point in 2020. But what do people mean when they use the term? What are the policies being advanced and what are some of the dangers of surface-level reformist language unattached to specific, activist-led initiatives? This week, we are joined by The Appeal’s Josie Duffy Rice to discuss how one can separate real reform from faux-reform.

The Appeal is available on iTunes and LibSyn RSS. You can also check us out on Twitter.

Transcript:

Adam Johnson: Hi welcome to The Appeal. I’m your host Adam Johnson. This is a podcast on criminal justice reform, abolition and everything in between. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter @TheAppealPod, on Facebook at The Appeal magazine’s main Facebook page and you can always subscribe to us and rate us on iTunes. Criminal justice reform as a concept has become increasingly trendy in recent years and for many 2020 candidates in the Democratic Party, quote unquote “criminal justice reform” will be a primary litmus test. But what do people mean when they say “criminal justice reform?” What are the policies being advanced and what are some of the dangers lurking under the surface or performance language? Today we’re joined by The Appeal’s Josie Duffy Rice to discuss four primary centers of what we call “faux reform” and how you can separate the real reform from what is at best hot air and at worst regressive or reactionary policy.

[Begin Clip]

Josie Duffy Rice: We tend to focus on the policy which makes sense of course. This is how change gets made legislatively, focus on the policy, change the policy, but at our core we have a system that demands bodies and believes in this level of punishment as a solution and so you see it all the time, sort of trying to get rid of bail reform on the front end and inevitably thinking that you need to be making up for that investment on the back end.

[End Clip]

Adam: Hi Josie. Thank you so much for coming on The Appeal.

Josie Duffy Rice: Hi Adam. Thanks for having me back.

Adam: So doing a little crossover here.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I love that.

Adam: A little TGIF, a little Boy Meets World, Family Matters.

Josie Duffy Rice: (Laughs.) Great reference.

Adam: Yeah. You know, for the kids who are 38 years old.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

Adam: So we were talking offline about the use of reformist language and reform rhetoric to sneak in things that are at best a lateral pass and at worse can actually be regressive or reactionary. This is a trend we’re seeing now. Now that criminal justice reform is trendy, activists I speak to, and we’ve talked about this on the show before, about the threat of pseudo reform and kind of faux woke reform.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.

Adam: So let’s talk about this to start off with. We’re going to talk about it in different areas, but I want to start with district attorneys. Um, what, from your observation as someone who follows this very closely, what are some of the ways in which district attorneys, either those who are running, or those who have already won election can use reformist language towards reactionary ends and what do you think some of the biggest offenders are?

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s interesting because if you were to talk about the era of DA reform, I would say probably the past two to three years are where we’ve seen real substantive changes, but it’s been about ten years that DAs have started using slightly reformer language. So I’m thinking about in Manhattan Cy Vance in 2008 was sort of like, ‘I want to do things differently, you know, racism exists.’ And Philly, Seth Williams, the previous DA of Philly said some of that same stuff. And what that basically meant was two things. One was ‘I want to be easier on the nonviolent offenders and harder on the violent offenders. Let’s put the bad guys away for a longer and let the small time offenders out earlier,’ and that was considered kind of like reformer language, right? The same thing with diversion programs, which is related. ‘Let’s send these kids to a program if they haven’t really done anything wrong and that way they don’t have anything on their record.’ All of this sounds really nice until you really start to interrogate it and what we saw with the violent offenders, nonviolent offenders, well, number one, most people in prison are violent offenders technically. They’re in there for what is considered to be a violent offense. Um, secondly, we should not be putting anybody in prison for longer. Leniency is not a problem we have in this country. It’s not a problem we have in this system. And this language was used to kind of binary and dichotomize defendants that really should not have been treated worse. And so that’s just one way that like reformer language has been used in the wrong way. The other, the diversion programs, we see it everywhere. ‘Oh, we’ve started this diversion program for X, Y, and Z.’ Well, number one, it’s usually basically impossible to get in the program. It has to be your first time offense. You have to be found doing one of three things. You have to be able to show up every Tuesday and Thursday at 2:00 PM to do this. You might have to pay an outrageous fee to be part of the diversion program. So first of all, it’s a narrow population that’s even eligible. And then the second thing you see all the time is that what DAs are actually doing, and this happens all the time in Louisiana in particular, they are using these diversion programs as money making devices. So in Louisiana recently, the Southern Poverty Law Center brought a lawsuit against, I don’t know how many DAs in Louisiana, but I know of at least one in Calcasieu Parish. So he had this diversion program called LACE, which stands for Local Agency Compensated Enforcement, um, that he was using as kind of a way to keep people out of traffic court. Generally in Louisiana, if you’ve got a traffic ticket, you would go to court, pay the ticket and that money would be split up between the public defenders, the DAs, the court, etcetera. He was doing a diversion program where he was passing out his own tickets, his own traffic tickets, telling people that if they paid X amount of money that it would be diverted from their, their record and then just pocketing all of the money. So not only was he taking from other parts of the system, he was basically just manipulating people and then calling it a progressive policy. So that’s just, those are some of the ways, I mean there are so many more bail reform and electronic monitoring, which I know that we’re going to talk about today, but there are all these different ways that if the language just does not at all reflect how punitive the policy is.

Adam: The Appeal is sort of generally as a magazine is kind of trying to be on the vanguard of that and to kind of differentiate between good and bad reform. for them. Others, not so much, who shall remain nameless, but one, one thing that it comes up a lot is bail reform. Bail reform is the hottest thing in town.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. It is. It is.

Adam: Um, but there’s a lot of examples of bad reform vis-a-vis bail. I know that there’s two pro, two main bills that were proposed to do bail reform at the federal level, one by Senator Kamala Harris of California, one by Bernie Sanders of Vermont. So Sarah Lazare in, uh, In These Times, wrote in an article criticizing the two bills. The first one had a problem, the Sanders bill had the problem of allocating more money to county jails, which is, I know in a demand, certain abolitionists and even reformist circles have made to stop giving money to jails, period. Um, and that was one of the ways, it was a carrot and stick and he used the, he used the carrot of more money, which is obviously problematic. And then Kamala Harris’ bill relied on these risk assessment algorithms which have been criticized. And I think I’ve been found pretty clearly to be racist by their very nature because they use things like previous interactions with the police as a criteria for risk assessment and of course, what group of people are more likely to have interactions with the police? Um, and that these are really just kind of shifting the problem. They’re displacing the problem from a, from cash bail to other forms of pretrial incarceration. Can you talk about some of the siren songs that had been advanced, uh, under the guise of bail reform?

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So bail reform is one of those things that is, I think, particularly ripe for manipulation. And I would say that on, on one level, the fact that we’re talking about bail reform is so important because poor people are just at such a structural, an undeniable disadvantage in the system. And this is one of the ways that, that is true. So the fact that it’s a lot of changes being made around money, I think is in general a good thing. But it is true that most of the alternatives we see out there are either, you know, at best inadequate at worst, replicating the same system a little bit more covertly. You made the point about more jails. And I think this really gets to kind of a fundamental problem with any sort of criminal justice reform, which is that we tend to focus on the policy which makes sense of course. This is how change gets made legislatively. You focus on the policy, you change the policy. But at our core we have a system that demands bodies and believes in this level of punishment as a solution. And so whether or not you’re getting it through Bernie Sanders calling to put more into jails, you know, you see it all the time sort of making up on the back end, try trying to get rid of bail reform on the front end and inevitably thinking that you need to be making up for that investment on the back end. Um, so, but to your point about risk assessments, you know, I think it’s worth being very clear about risk assessments because currently there are not, I think that I know of, any really sufficient risk assessment indicators that we possess as a, as a field, but also just nationwide. We haven’t created a fair or truly, um, truly predictive risk assessment model. I would say two things. One is that it’s not impossible to imagine that there is a risk assessment model out there that is not racist or classist. The problem so far in terms of the questions is a solvable one. The question is, does anybody actually want to solve it? If you start saying, ‘well, you’re at higher risk of reoffending or for not showing up because you don’t have a permanent address,’ you are going to be putting homeless people away. If you say ‘you’re at risk of not showing up because you’ve interacted with the police this many times,’ you’re going to be putting people of color and poor people away. If you say ‘you’re at risk of re-offending because you don’t have a home phone number,’ you are going to be putting young people away. So you are isolating these populations. Is there a way to be able to identify who is most at risk of being involved in something, a more serious criminal offense? Probably, but should you be holding those people longer or making sure they get services, ensuring that they get the help they need to not get there versus assuming that if they’re free, they will. I think the other thing, and I know that we’re going to talk about this, is this just general idea that we should see it as a reasonable ask to assess someone’s risk of what they will do in the future. Right?

Adam: Right.

Josie Duffy Rice: If you are, um, Ted Bundy and you’ve, you’re on your tenth murder, like then we can have a conversation, right? Even if you’re like a few murders below that we’ll have the conversation, if you have done something multiple times-

Adam: Allegedly.

Josie Duffy Rice: Allegedly. Right.

Adam: But the theoretical scenario where a Ted Bundy-like person would still be alleged, right? Yeah.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. So I’m just, I, I just mean these are the rare scenarios.

Adam: I can’t wait until we run for Congress by the way. I’d be like, ‘Josie Duffy Rice defended Ted Bundy, what is she hiding?’

Josie Duffy Rice: Can you even imagine the commercials? It would just be like my Twitter feed and I couldn’t even deny it.

Adam: Yeah, it’s not gonna happen.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, never, but I think it is worth discussing what our role is and what law enforcement’s role is in predicting people’s future and whether or not that should be a law enforcement role or a services role. Now, there are obviously exceptions. This is a tough line to walk and I think law enforcement has to do it all the time and I honestly can’t imagine how hard it is to be a well intentioned person trying to be in the system because if someone calls ten times and their husbands beating the shit out of them at some point you were making a predictive assessment and that predictive assessment is the moral and reasonable thing to do. Now, if my 15 year old steals from the 7-Eleven or gets in a school yard fight or runs away, should I be making a predictive assessment about what they’ll do at 30? If a 25 year old does that once or twice should I be making a predictive assessment? If we can isolate the reason they’re doing that, should we be making predictive assessments? So in some ways I don’t think that risk assessments have to look the way that they do. I think they can be better, but I do think we have to ask ourselves what is the job of the system to be doing an equation, filling out a sheet of paper, making an assessment about whether or not someone should be in jail all based on what you think they’re capable of doing in the future.

Adam: Yeah. There’s a pre-crime element to it that rubs people the wrong way.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. And it should.

Adam: And of course, bail itself has almost always been a pre-crime element. It was just more haphazard and, and, and well, and maybe it’s not much difference. Maybe a lot of the, the kind of techno-racism is a bunch of window dressing, right? You know, if you pump in something to some computer and it comes out, it somehow seems like it’s not anyone’s fault. Oh it’s the algorithm, right? It sort of strips us of responsibility in a way. That’s why people love them because it’s, there’s a faux objectivity to it that I think does, um, it’s the same thing with predictive policing, which we’ve talked about before with George Joseph, where it’s like, it’s like predictive policing gives the illusion that the state is this morally neutral, not racist, not classist actor, which seems to be more of the motive behind these new technologies than any kind of desire to actually be neutral.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. This system is a racist system. This is a racist system. It operates under all sorts of different systems that disproportionately affect people of color. It is a classist system. It operates in so many ways that disproportionately affect people of color. There is not going to be a policy or a practice in the system that is not affected by race unless this entire system is not racist. So this idea that we can impart computer modules or predictive anything or risk assessments without them being affected by the classism and the racism that plagues the system and America more, more generally, it’s a farce.

Adam: Yeah. And so what would you say to like you’re kind of a skeptical liberal who’s like, ‘well, you know, there has to be some sanction, pretrial sanction on certain people who are an imminent risk.’ Everyone’s impression is that one formulaic scene they have in every Law and Order episode where they’re doing an arraignment and the judge has some glib joke. This is people’s entire, most people’s entire interpretation of how the system works. Well it seems like what you’re arguing now is that right now we’re at like let’s say 100 units of pretrial punishment and you think it should be like 10 units and the reformers are like going down to 95 units. Is that a fair kind of?

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I think that’s fair. And I think, look, I don’t know what the answer is, but I think there are two things that are critical. The first is we’re not clear, I think, and I think this is a media problem writ large. We’re not clear with people about what risk actually is. So if you look at the surveys that they do every year of what people think the crime rate is and what it actually is, the difference is outrageous. People think that crime, people think that like at any given second, someone’s going to come up and steal their child. Like they think everything is at an all time high. You know, this is Donald Trump’s whole thing, right? Like this idea that crime is on every single corner in America is just entirely inaccurate. The crime is lower now than it’s basically been in 50 years. I mean it goes up down over the years, but not by much. It’s trending down and it’s been trending down for decades. And then on the other part of that is that it’s becoming more geographically compact. So there are places in America where crime is higher than it’s ever been. Those are not the places where the people making the decisions live. The prosecutors don’t live there, the judges don’t live there, most of the voters don’t live there. These are areas that are mostly black and mostly poor where already the law enforcement presence is astronomical. So what that tells us is like both that it is the people who we think of as the offenders that are also the victims and also that like law enforcement isn’t helping, right? What we see is in the places where there are the most cops, it’s not helping. So that’s to say that one of the problems with our assessment of whether or not people should be held pretrial is rooted in our misunderstanding of how common crime is and how regularly these, these people who aren’t held pretrial would be re-offending. So there’s that. I think the second part is we have to rethink our ability to control the future. And this gets back to my previous point. Risk is part of living in a free society. So it is very possible that, you know, someone makes an assessment that’s so and so should be let out of jail pretrial and they’re let out and they do something horrible. That’s possible. And that would be a tragedy. There is no question that that would be a tragedy. Is the lesson from that that we should hold everybody pretrial? No. The lesson from that is, this is the risk we take from having a system that values fairness and, you know, says that people are innocent until they’re proven guilty. If there was a better way to do this, it might be to speed up the trial process so that people, you know, have a faster response on whether or not they are sentenced or not. And there are certainly people that should be held pretrial, I don’t know the best way to make that assessment, but as long as there’s sort of a national misunderstanding of the risks and the crime, um, then the people making that assessment are worried about their own chances of reelection, public approval rating and so they tend to err on the side of caution, which is really just punishing those people.

Adam: Um, one area that we see also emerging of faux reform or this kind of pseudo reform is electric monitoring.

Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my gosh.

Adam: I know that The Appeal has tried to really warn people about. I know that on November 8th of this year Michelle Alexander had an Op-Ed in New York Times about it, um, uh, basically, uh, laying out concerns activists had been airing for several years now. James Kilgore has been on this beat for awhile at the University of Illinois. The Chicago Bond Fund has been opposed to what they call e-incarceration. Um, can we talk about the temptation and pitfalls of electronic monitoring as a quote unquote “alternative” to incarceration, physical incarceration?

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. You know, it’s so, this stuff is so tough to parse out because let’s take a second and look at it in the best possible light. There is something to be said for giving people the opportunity to, for this not being a binary system, you’re either in or you’re out. I like the idea in theory, and I emphasize in theory, of the fact that people can serve their sentence but still get to see their families, still get to see their kids, still get to live some semblance of a life because being incarcerated is traumatic and harmful to the people around you. I don’t deny any of that. The other side of that, like we’re saying, is that electronic monitoring, it increases astronomically the surveillance capabilities of this system and it normalizes them in a way that is ultimately, I think, harmful for everybody and not just people who had been arrested. So this idea that not only the cops know where I am at every single given second, which room I am in in my house, but that also means that they know where the people around me are, that they can track me down at any moment and that like I am essentially their property is really, really disturbing and it’s becoming noted as a reasonable alternative to a system that is already, that there are no reasonable alternatives to. The only reasonable alternative to the system is getting rid of the system. That’s the only one. And so this idea that we can replicate without inflicting on all this harm I think is an illusion. This kind of gets back to and I think we were talking about this when I saw you, that this whole golden state killer thing, where they ran his DNA through a system and the ability for this government, which has not proven itself to have earned this, to deserve this, to have met the standard that one would need to meet before having this sort of access to people. The amount of information that they are getting from us, from these sort of electronic databases, data repositories, monitoring systems, there is no word for how concerned we should all be. And I think there is, this is kind of a consistent thing that we see these systems and these processes laid out as if they are good and reasonable alternatives to a harmful system as if the only thing that’s harmful about the system is the actual incarceration part. You know, it’s much bigger than that.

Adam: Yeah. Because one of the temptations is as you sort of as Alexander points out and as other activists have pointed out for some time now is the temptation becomes greater to use incarceration, right? And you basically have this kind of digital prison where the judge says, ‘oh well we’re not putting them in prison’ and it sort of seems harmless, so let’s just, instead of giving out to, you know, every fifth person, you’re now giving it out to every other person or a person, right? Because it, so there’s a moral hazard there.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right and then you know, you have this other thing which is like there is a very common use of conspiracy laws or accomplice or these kind of like crime statutes that punish people for stuff that they did not do. We see it all the time in gang policing, right? You live in the same public housing as your friend, you guys are maybe wearing the same color or you are like loosely defined as a group of friends and cops call you gangs and your friend does something and you are then responsible for it. It is criminalizing this freedom of association in a way that is extremely common, especially in New York. I mean it’s, it’s horrible. And the electronic monitoring only maximizes that because now if you live in a public housing complex, let’s say, and ten of you are being monitored electronically, now there’s an entire way of tracking communities, right? Of tracking groups of people in a way that did not exist before. And we are thinking of it as change. We’re thinking about it as an improvement. And I think that is a serious problem.

Adam: Yeah. Alexander mentioned that several scholars refer to it as e-gentrification where you, you’re headed to a world where entire communities become trapped in digital prisons that keep them locked out of neighborhoods where jobs and opportunity can be found. Um, and it’s, uh, it’s a, it’s a realistic fear because the technology’s there. And then of course you have the, the corollary issue, which is always lost in these conversations, which is the amount of labor women are asked to do. It’s almost always women’s, it’s almost always black women who are asked to do unseen labor, unpaid labor where they’re basically taking things that normally a commissary or an infirmary or CO would do in a prison. And they’re basically saying, here, you do this for free.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. Right. That’s interesting.

Adam: Yeah. It’s something, it’s something you see a lot with, um, because obviously it’s disproportionately African American men who can’t go out. They can’t produce, they can’t make money. So now they become dependent on unseen black women.

Josie Duffy Rice:  I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Essie Justice Group. It’s, um, this incredible organization in California. I mean one of, I think the most innovative and grassroots and this organization really gives me hope for the future. Essie Justice Group and it’s run by this woman, Gina Clayton, who is also just unbelievable. And Gina works with women with incarcerated loved ones and she talks a lot about the penalties that women pay in this mass incarceration system even when they’re not in it, right? And we think of them as sort of like corollaries or one degree removed from the pain and it is like they are also paying the price. You know, when you think about bail, who pays these people’s bail?

Adam: Right.

Josie Duffy Rice: You know, this is not a dual transactional process. It is involving all of these other parties, all of these other people, all of these other family members trying to raise the money and your partner and your mother and your daughter and your niece and your, you know, and it’s like unbelievably common to see women disproportionately burdened with the cost of this mass incarceration system.

Adam: Yeah. Above all it’s a way of just staffing out labor for, for governments that are short on money.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Yeah.

Adam: Um, so, um, let’s go back to district attorneys or prosecutors and even sheriffs, uh, the use of gun control rhetoric to provide liberal cover against bail reform issues. A Sheriff Dart here in Chicago where I record the show days after the Parkland shooting last February, really kind of jumped at the chance to talk about how there was a court order to not give bail, more than people could pay in Cook County in Chicago. Um, and Sheriff Dart was not meeting this legal requirement, uh, to the satisfaction of activists, uh, or even the judges. I think is probably objectively true. And he emphasized the gun violence issue. And this is obviously a huge issue in Chicago as justification for why he couldn’t let quote unquote “offenders” certain quote unquote “offenders” leave, right? They needed to have excessive bail. Um, can we talk about the temptation to kind of give, given the theme of the show, the kind of full woke reformist elements. Can we talk about the temptation to use gun control, which is obviously hugely popular among liberals, to justify the hyper criminalization of black communities and also to um, concern troll or skew bail reform efforts?

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. You know, I spend a lot of time thinking about gun control. I really don’t know.

Adam: Yeah. It’s not easy.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah it really isn’t easy because I, you know, I have a kid I like, like have a family. I understand and I am not a gun enthusiast. Like I don’t own any.

Adam: I didn’t peg you as a gun enthusiast.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, so I don’t have any sort of like affection towards what this American Second Amendment valorization that we see left and right. Like it’s not anything personal to me. And yet I do think that we on the left treat this gun control thing like it’s so obvious like we should obviously be, there should obviously be less guns, there should, we should obviously be taking people’s guns from them or we should obviously make it harder to get this and that and the other and if you are caught with a gun, you should be, you know, sentenced. And not only have I yet to hear a workable solution, guns are out there, there are millions and millions of guns out there. I think it’s three for every person in America. Guns exist. So I’ve yet to hear a solution of how we’re going to solve that problem even if we stopped making them tomorrow. But then the other thing I think is we rely on the criminal justice system for solving any sort of social ill in this country, period.

Adam: Right. That’s the issue.

Josie Duffy Rice: That’s it. Like we literally just, that would be our answer. They say people who are mentally ill shouldn’t get a gun. And I’m like, what does that mean? Like I’m bipolar I shouldn’t get a gun? Are you going to establish whether or not I’m a sociopath? What if like I’ve been depressed?

Adam: And then they tried to do the terror watch list which five minutes before we all agreed was a racist, like holdover from the Bush administration and all of a sudden the Democrats are are sitting down in the Senate to make sure that, I mean that whole thing was wild and I, and you know why? Because there’s sort of these shocking things that sort of strike at our moral core and we get it. You want to sort of do something about it. The problem is, is that I think a lot of people are scared that the solution will invariably just the proverbial shit will roll down hill, that it’ll end up being poor black kids in South Chicago who have five, 10, 15 years tacked onto their sentences for having an assault weapon and it’s not going to, as we discussed earlier, it’s not, it’s not Cletus in West Virginia.

Josie Duffy Rice: Well, that’s what happens. I mean, that’s what we see.

Adam: Right.

Josie Duffy Rice:  I mean literally when we talk about people being put away for, I mean decades, for possessing a firearm when they have a felony on their record, that’s real. This is a real thing. Gun laws exist. There are tough gun laws in thousands of black communities in America, very tough gun laws where it is very difficult to get a gun. If you are caught with a gun that isn’t registered, you’re going to jail for a long time. If you were, illegal handgun possession, either because the gun itself isn’t registered or you’re on our list of people who aren’t supposed to have a weapon. That’s the population that’s more likely for this to even be discovered because they’re more likely to get pulled over. They’re more likely to be, you know, have cops in their neighborhoods. They’re more likely to get stop-and-frisked. We have gun laws in America and what we’ve seen is that it actually has not reduced gun violence in a lot of communities and it’s increased criminal justice system involvement and so I just am very wary of any solution to gun violence that relies on criminal justice sanctions because like we said earlier, this is a racist system. Like you said, it’s not going to be people in West Virginia. It’s not going to be my friend in Texas who has 300 guns or it’s not going to be white dudes, you know, living in rural America who, you know, by the way often also exhibit indicators that they should have their guns removed, like domestic violence is more common in some of these areas. And so what this fundamentally gets back to, and this is something I think you talk a lot  about Adam, just the inability for the left to really comprehend what we’re facing in terms of giving power to this government to punish us.

Adam: Yeah. Is that we can only view things, and not just the left but I think people in Americans in general are wired to view things, that the solution is to make things illegal. Um, I know some people have proposed alternatives which is similar to like how we went after tobacco companies, right? We didn’t go after smokers necessarily. We went after the tobacco makers that suing out of existence gun manufacturers or cold and criminally liable gun manufacturer executives as being a more elegant way of doing it, a less classist and less racist way of doing it. Like solutions like that seem interesting to me. Right? Because that way you’re not just criminalizing poor people kind of wantonly, so I think people are looking for alternatives. I think people who are not, again at all Second Amendment people or gun fetishist or even people who don’t think there should be any criminal sanction against gun, but it’s been an issue of going after manufacturers, distributors as opposed to a low level gun possession. Because in this, you know, the response is to always go after gun possession and I think that maybe people on the left could think creatively about how to do that to where it is, yeah, it isn’t just another Arrow in the quiver of prosecutors in these major cities because it really is the kind of wedge issue for big cities, which are disproportionately people of color, disproportionately liberal-\

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Disproportionately poor. Right.

Adam: But this is the way that the prosecutors have always kind of outflanked that almost to the right and it’s, it’s um, uh, and I know that, you know, you look at polls amongst African Americans in how they support gun control. Gun control’s generally popular, although it’s not any more popular than amongst kind of middle class whites in general.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

Adam: It’s a tough one. It’s a hard one to sort of to untie and I don’t really. Yeah. Like I said, I don’t know what the answer is, but I definitely think a sort of knee jerk more punitive gun laws can be tempting and not necessarily that valuable.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. I think you’re right, that probably the answer to a lot of what we see as going after manufacturers, but like on the left we have these two things. One, Trump’s government is the worst thing to ever happen to us essentially, right? And on the other hand, we need more gun control. And I’m like, I actually am not super comfortable with letting the people in charge right now decide who can have weapons and who can’t. It’s just not. It’s not, to me, it doesn’t seem like a good plan. Now I don’t, that doesn’t mean that I don’t take it very seriously, that there are people who are losing their loved ones daily to gun violence, that should be avoidable. And that the fact that people are nervous going to concerts and bars and schools is a national tragedy. I think that’s absolutely true. And that making light of that or, you know, saying that there’s no solution to that is I think wrong. But I do think that we don’t spend a lot of time on the left actually thinking through some of this stuff. And I’m not going to be the one pushing, you know, Donald Trump’s senate to pass gun control laws. It’s just not going to be-

Adam: Yeah, it’s an issue of like, of, of we have this pathological instinct in this country, and this is one of the things we try to sort of push back on it at The Appeal of just criminalizing things. That’s our first reaction to everything.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Yep.

Adam: Just to sort of say, ‘what can the police do?’ And I really think that like, even if you think it’s worth it, that we have gun control laws, even if you think the kind of downward negative effects on poor communities is worth it, like at least stop and think about it. Think about other ways you can do it. That would sort of be my, that would be my prescriptive opinion.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. Did you see Brian Kemp had all these ads with him holding guns, him with his guns, him pointing a gun in his, his daughter’s boyfriend, like really just, you know, pandering. And then he tweeted on election day, ‘armed Black Panthers are voting for Stacey Abrams’ and it was a picture of these three black guys with their guns holding a Stacey Abrams sign. I mean, what that literally says is ‘I want guns and I don’t think black people should have guns.’ I mean he basically said it.

Adam: The NRA has always been a, has always just been an overtly white supremacist organization. That’s why we started. That’s why it exists.

Josie Duffy Rice: Right.

Adam:  It’s guns for white people, guns for no one else. Anyway. Yeah. I don’t know. I think there’s some interesting things to chew on it. I think that where I see prosecutors really start to push back against bail reform efforts in, and reform efforts in general is on the gun control issue. And so I think it’s something to sort of keep in mind to kind of be aware of for people listening. All right, well I think this was a very good episode. It was very thorough. I really, this is exactly what I wanted to talk about and I think we covered the probably the four main issues and, and uh, we want people who again, listen and follow this to kind of keep those things in mind when moving forward because there’s a lot of pretty packaging for a lot of things that are maybe not so great. So.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.

Adam: And of course check out Josie’s podcast, Justice in America, a lot of deep dives and really interesting stuff. They have great guests. So if you haven’t checked out Justice in America, please do. Josie Duffy Rice, thank you so much for coming on.

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. .Thank you so much Adam. I think that the work you’re doing is really important.

Adam: Thank you to our guest, Josie Duffy Rice of The Appeal and remember you can check out her podcast Justice in America with Clint Smith. This has been The Appeal. Remember, you can follow us on Twitter @TheAppealPod, on Facebook at The Appeal’s main Facebook page and as always you can subscribe to us on iTunes. The show is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn and executive producer is Sarah Leonard. I’m your host Adam Johnson. Thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you next week.