Jail Brakes

By Bill Maher

New Rule: Just like Republican Richard Nixon had to be the one to establish ties with China, the red states have to be the ones to end this ridiculous Drug War. And they're doing it. In between writing laws requiring black people to stand in long lines to vote and making women get robot-raped before an abortion, Republican-run states have been quietly, and successfully, rolling back mandatory sentencing penalties for low-level, non-violent drug offenders.

By putting drug offenders into treatment or on probation instead of throwing them in jail, Republican budget hawks in Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Louisiana have been saving their states billions.

As our good frenemy Grover Norquist wrote for Reuters, "The Texas prison system, the nation's largest, was in a tough spot in 2007. That year, the Texas Legislative Budget Board had projected that the state would need more than 17,000 new prison beds by 2012. In response, state legislators passed a $241 million justice reinvestment package that expanded drug courts, intermediate sanctions and other alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. These reforms allowed the state to avoid the projected expansion, saving Texas taxpayers $2 billion."

Similar legislation is projected to save South Carolina $175 million, Georgia $264 million, Pennsylvania $253 million and Louisiana $200 million. Okay, so this isn't all altruism. I think they figured out they can still tag minorities with a felony conviction, which precludes them from voting, but then skip the part where they have to provide them with "three hots and a cot."

Nationwide, red states are adopting these "smart-on-crime" policies. Funny how when Republicans decide to not throw black people into jail, it's called "smart-on-crime." But when Democrats do the same, it's called "soft on crime."

It took having their budgets blown out for Republicans to finally realize, "Hey, maybe it's not such a good idea to round up all the people who get high and watch SpongeBob and lock them in a cage."

And the feds are taking their cue. These successful red state programs have led Attorney General Eric Holder to issue a directive instructing U.S. Attorneys nationwide to, as Grover says, "revisit current drug cases involving low-level, non-violent offenders and waive harsh mandatory sentencing requirements where appropriate."