2016 GOP Presidential Contenders Embrace Criminal Justice Reform

Republican presidential candidates are turning their sights on criminal justice reform, indicating that the issue has broken into the mainstream conservative movement as the party seeks inroads with minority voters.

Conservatives have been gravitating toward the criminal justice reform movement for some time, but the fact that the GOP contenders have zeroed in on it as a potent political issue is a sea change moment for reform activists, as well as those eager to see Republicans expand the party’s reach.

In addition, the issue could be an in for Republicans as they court the African-American and Hispanic voters that have traditionally been a stronghold of the Democratic Party.

President Obama won 93 percent of the black vote and 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012. Obama noted in an address on criminal justice reform on Tuesday that it’s these minority groups that are disproportionately affected by the nation’s ballooning prison population.

“America’s demographics are changing at lighting speed, so Republicans are going to have to court minority voters, period,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “This is a smart way to do it. Will it move the needle on the 2016 electoral map? I don’t know. But at least there’s a realization that we can’t win the White House relying solely on white voters.”

Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill

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Analysis & Political Strategy