These days the most optimistic people in Washington deal with a dark topic: overhauling the nation’s criminal justice system.
The biggest reason for the optimism is, after decades of tough-on-crime politicians from both parties, the groups behind the push for new prison policies are unusually bipartisan.
Not that they’ll admit to that just yet — there’s still a lot of wariness, especially on the conservative side. But behind the caution is a real sense of movement with ideologically divergent politicians like Sens. Rand Paul and Patrick Leahy working together on legislation and groups like the conservative Right on Crime quietly taking meetings with the NAACP and ACLU on the issue of criminal justice.
“I’ve been working this field since 1990 and this is certainly the most hopeful time I’ve seen in that 25-year period,” said David Fathi, ACLU National Prison Project director. “There is an openness to fundamentally rethinking our approach to crime and deviant behavior in a way that I’ve never seen before.”