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Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice
December 19, 2016
Ohio Lawmakers Approve Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
Ohio lawmakers approved a bill restricting local and state government police agencies’ ability to take ownership of and profit from citizens’ property taken without a criminal conviction.
Criminal Justice
December 15, 2016
California Woman Prosecuted for Baking Without Government Permission
A Stockton, California woman is being prosecuted by the county government because she sold a traditional food dish without government permission.
Criminal Justice
November 9, 2016
Couple Challenges Arizona’s Civil-Asset Forfeiture Laws
A Washington State couple is suing a county government in Arizona for initially refusing to return their property because of alleged paperwork errors.
More News
Criminal Justice
September 30, 2016
Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Approved in California
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill into law restricting local and state government police agencies’ ability to participate in a federal program distributing assets and property seized from citizens without criminal charges or search warrants.
Government Spending
May 9, 2016
Maryland Legislature Approves Criminal Justice Reform Bill
The Maryland Senate unanimously approved a bill that would reduce the amount of money spent on housing prisoners, by focusing correctional spending on serious and violent criminals and opting for rehabilitation over retribution.
March 17, 2016
Civil Rights Reform Causing Crime Wave, Chicago Cops Say
Law enforcement officers in Chicago are claiming a recent spike in gun violence in the city is rooted in a recent legal agreement requiring police street investigations to comply with a stricter understanding of constitutional and civil rights

The Issue

As a nation with a judicial branch that includes the United States Supreme Court as well as hundreds of appellate and local courts, the rule of law is clearly important to governance in the United States.

Some laws are necessary in order for society to flourish and a market economy to sustain itself. If not for the law enforcing the property rights and barring theft of possessions, for example, there could be no market in which to trade goods and services.

While the rule of law is crucial to the survival of our republic, the law can be abused. For example, the United States leads the world in the percentage of its population that is imprisoned, a statistic that may suggest we have too much law. Overcriminalization penalizes many people unnecessarily and costs the country millions of dollars. More than 5,000 offenses in the United States are consider felonies punishable by imprisonment.

Civil asset forfeiture programs used by law enforcement agencies across the country represent another potential abuse of the law. Assets are often forfeited without due process of law; in many states, individuals need not be found guilty in a court of law before their property is seized. Civil asset forfeiture creates incentives for law enforcement agencies by allowing them to profit off the criminal property.

Gun control, too, is considered by some to be an abuse of the law. The right to keep and bear arms has its roots in the English Bill of Rights and was critically important to America’s Founding Fathers, who embedded that right in the U.S. Constitution.

Our Stance

The rule of law is fundamental to the operation of a free society. Without it, there can be no protection of private property and no enforcement of contracts. The alternative to ordered liberty is the use of force or fraud, the opposite of peaceful and productive cooperation.

Featured Subtopics

Two men in suits behind bars
Civil asset forfeiture, or civil judicial forfeiture, is a legal process law enforcement agencies personal assets from individuals or groups that are suspected of a crime or illegal activity.
Hands buying a gun
To deny citizens the right to keep and bear arms will endanger individual safety, small businesses, and communities. Gun control prevents peaceful citizens from protecting themselves.

Additional Subtopics

  • Hate Crimes
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Mandatroy Minimums
  • Overcriminalization
  • Parole and Re-entry
  • Police
  • Punishment
  • Terrorism
  • War on Drugs
  • Prisons


Title: Criminal Justice Reform: What Values Should Take Priority in Criminal Justice Systems?
Description: The 2016-2017 Lincoln Douglas Debate Resolution - Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in criminal justice systems. Greg Rehmke, program director of Economic Thinking explores this topic with a discussion and examples for rehabilitation, retribution, and restitution (restorative justice) being used today and in the past.

Criminal Justice Experts Team

The Heartland Institute's experts on law and criminal justice policy are available for legislative testimony, speaking engagements, and media interviews.

Heartland Staff Policy Experts

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