The policy wars of the last several decades (e.g., the "war on crime" and the "war on drugs") have been vehicles for assigning blame and dispensing punishment rather than implementing meaningful systemic reform. They have generated a sense of mass victimization that has led to knee-jerk policy formation and the creation of a permanent state of “crisis.” The “war on terror” has followed the same general outline of its predecessors. But instead of criminalizing youth of color and black and brown men, it has targeted the Arab, South Asian, Sikh, and Muslim communities (and immigrants more broadly) and shifted the public’s attention away from concerns about crime to concerns about national security and acts of terror perpetrated by “outsiders.”
How has the war on terror affected advocacy around the death penalty, racial profiling, criminal defense, and victims’ rights? Has it allowed advocates to maneuver under the public radar and gain traction or has it limited opportunities to push meaningful, comprehensive reform because resources are tighter and the public is more afraid? Are high-profile civil liberties battles having positive or negative repercussions for domestic criminal justice advocacy? How do we push a sound crime policy reform agenda against a political backdrop that panders to people’s fears and whets their appetite for retribution?
This panel examined current events and emerging trends spurred on by the war on terror and discussed opportunities and challenges to advancing progressive policies in the current social and political context.
Moderated by Morton Halperin, OSI Director of U.S. Advocacy and Open Society Policy Center Executive Director, the panel included:
- Anne Chapman, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Eastern District of Virginia;
- Neal Katyal, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center;
- Tammy Krause, Soros Justice Fellow; Victim Outreach Specialist, Federal Public Defender, Phoenix, AZ;
- Deborah Ramirez, Soros Justice Fellow; Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law.
The panel was part of the 2006 meeting of the Soros Justice Fellows. The Soros Justice Fellowships program hosts an annual meeting each spring to welcome the new cohort of fellows; offer opportunities for intellectual exchange, technical assistance, and networking; and to cultivate a community of advocates, lawyers, journalists,scholars, and others who comprise the fellows network.