Where Ted Cruz Stands on Criminal Justice Reform

intern 2016 Profiles

March 26, 2015

We’re taking a look at where the 2016 Presidential Candidates stand on justice reform. See how the rest of them stack up.

CruzTed Cruz has proposed policies to scrub the federal code of redundant crimes and reduce harsh sentencing for nonviolent offenders.

On sentencing reform:

  • According to the National Review, Cruz co-sponsored legislation with Senator Paul that was passed retroactively by Congress in 2010 to reduce crack sentencing and cut mandatory minimum sentences for various drug offenses in half.
  • In February 2015, Senator Ted Cruz co-sponsored the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act, which would give judges more discretion in sentencing non-violent drug offenders. According to the Hill, “The bill does not eliminate mandatory sentencing or decrease any maximum penalties. It instead expands the federal “safety valve,” which allows judges to lower sentences for certain non-violent drug offenders below existing mandatory minimums.”
  • In November 2015, Cruz denounced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would allow for a reduction in federal sentences for certain offenses and provide for rehabilitation and opportunities for earned time while in prison, claiming it would lead to more violent criminals being released. Cruz voted against the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • On a conservative radio program in December 2015, Senator Cruz claimed that “the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.” He cited research that has been discredited by major news organizations, as he equated ex-felons with violent criminals.

On mandatory minimum sentencing:

  • In a Brennan Center essay, Cruz said the “problem is the ratcheting up of mandatory minimum sentences over the last several decades. Although there is nothing wrong in principle with mandatory minimums, they must be carefully calibrated to ensure that no circumstances could justify a lesser sentence for the crime charged. The current draconian mandatory minimum sentences sometimes result in sentencing outcomes that neither fit the crime nor the perpetrator’s unique circumstances. This is especially true for nonviolent drug offenders.”
  • In the same essay, Cruz said “harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes have contributed to prison overpopulation and are both unfair and ineffective relative to the public expense and human costs of years-long incarceration”

On over-criminalization:

  • In the Brennan Center essay, Cruz supported scrubbing the U.S. Code in the and says Congress and the president should work together by “eliminating crimes that are redundant and converting regulatory crimes into civil offenses. But the political incentives to criminalize disfavored conduct — whether it is inherently evil or not — could prove too great to generate the support needed to undertake this Herculean task.”
  • Cruz argued in the same essay that “the place to start is with incremental reforms aimed at mitigating the harmful effects of overcriminalization. Congress should begin by requiring that all criminal offenses are put into one title of the Code, Title 18, or if that proves too difficult, Congress can enact a law that prohibits criminal liability on the basis of any statute that is not codified or otherwise cross-referenced in Title 18. Having thousands of criminal laws scattered throughout the entire Code works an intolerable hardship on the public akin to Caligula posting his laws high up to make them difficult for the public to see.”
  • In his Brennan Center essay, Cruz also criticized the “demise” of jury trials and the commonness of plea-bargaining.
  • On the heroin epidemic, Cruz “supports legislation to funnel more federal dollars into drug prevention programs,” but maintains that “It’s not going to be the government that solves this…The solution to this is going to come at the state and local level. It’s going to come from the church, it’s going to come from charities, it’s going to come from friends and families and loved ones stepping forward.”