by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As a state legislative committee prepares to discuss North Carolina’s Raise the Age legislation, Vikrant Reddy writes for National Review Online about an interesting factor influencing criminal justice reform across the country.
Last week, the Charles Koch Institute (CKI) polled several hundred conservative voters to assess whether they recognize criminal justice as an important issue currently facing the nation. While specific reasons for their interest are debatable, 81 percent of Trump voters polled described the issue as either “very important” or “somewhat important”– a definite consensus. …
… People surprised by the results of the poll ought to focus on one important figure: Fifty-four percent of Trump voters said they knew someone who is or has been incarcerated.
That may surprise progressives who accuse conservatives of being out of touch and aloof from criminal-justice realties, but it shouldn’t surprise anybody who works in the criminal-justice arena and regularly talks to conservatives about their views.
Between 70 million and 100 million people — or one in three Americans — may now have a criminal record. The criminal-justice system has become so vast and far reaching, that virtually every American has been personally involved with it, or has a loved one, friend, or neighbor involved with it.
It’s also worth recalling that Trump easily won small towns and rural America on November 8, taking 62 percent of the rural vote, and these communities are the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, which in 2015 claimed an average of 91 lives per day from overdoses. The rate of overdose-related deaths now exceeds automobile accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.
Increasingly, then, the Americans who experience criminal justice as a personal issue are rural conservatives.