Several lawmakers who supported and implemented several “tough on crime” policies in the 1980s and 1990s have said they regret it. Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley helped push “tough on crime” laws, but he stands by his decision to support them.

O’Malley, former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor, said he still believes what he did was right because of the violence and crime that plagued Baltimore. “We had a horrible problem in our city with the proliferation of open air drug markets,” he said. “People wanted them shut down, so that’s what we did. Yes, enforcement levels spiked. But we saved about 1,000 lives, probably.”

O’Malley’s approach proved to be overly aggressive as his policies led to the denial of parole for elderly prisoners and mass arrests for small crimes, including loitering. The city of Baltimore paid out several settlements regarding wrongful arrests and detentions. O’Malley defended himself by saying he supports progressive crime policies.

“I’ve been on a constant search for things that work to save and redeem lives,” he said. “I decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. I repealed the death penalty. Those are two examples of things that don’t work. We greatly increased our drug treatment funding, an example of something that actually does work.”

He may have supported decriminalization and revoking the death penalty, but the broad “tough on crime” laws he supported have caused way more damage than he’s prevented.

For more on this story, visit ThinkProgress “Amid Protests, Martin O’Malley Defends ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policing”

SHARE
Richard Eskow is host and managing editor of The Zero Hour, a weekly radio program produced by We Act Radio. He was the senior writer and editor for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Richard has written for a number of print and online publications, was a founding contributor to the Huffington Post, and is a longtime activist. He is also a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future.