How Reason Changes Minds, Lives, and Laws by Covering Criminal Injustice

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Why do people first come to Reason, and therefore, in some cases, to libertarianism?

As we motor through day four of our annual webathon, in which we ask our most loyal consumers to consider making a tax-deductible donation to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that publishes our journalism and commentary, it’s worth pausing to note the category of story that always fills the most seats, year after year: outrageous tales of government injustice against undeserving individuals.

Here are our top three stories of the past 365 days, as measured by traffic:

1)Trump Commuted His Sentence. Now the Justice Department Is Going To Prosecute Him Again,” by Billy Binion

2)A 5-Year-Old Pulled Down a 3-Year-Old’s Pants. The Preschool Workers Are on Trial,” by Lenore Skenazy

3)Connecticut Parents Arrested for Letting Kids, Ages 7 and 9, Walk to Dunkin’ Donuts,” by Lenore Skenazy

Seeing the pattern here?

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Nothing teaches the hard lessons of libertarianism more primordially than the sight of deadly-force monopolists leveraging their massive power against a single innocent human engaging in peaceable activities. The It in Jerome Tuccille’s fun libertarian memoir It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand refers to the minting of new libertarians, and while that was definitely true in 1971 when the father of J.D. wrote his minihistory, Rand has been joined in gateway drugging by personages such as Ron Paul, and by categories of civic revulsion, particularly toward criminal injustice.

Reason‘s commitment to this topic is both comprehensive—check out these special magazine issues from 2020 and 2011—and consequential. Lives have changed for the better because of our work.

How many publications that you read can come up with lead sentences like this, from our resident Freedom of Information Act warrior C.J. Ciaramella?

Hundreds of people in Tennessee serving outdated prison sentences for drug-free school zone offenses may soon have a shot at resentencing, following a Reason investigation four years ago that showed how harsh and illogical their sentences were.

And that trick, from 2022, was no one-off. Ciaramella and criminal justice reformer Lauren Krisai this year wrote a great piece, “The U.S. Probation System Has Become a Quagmire,” which led five months later to the state of Minnesota capping its probation sentences.

Billy Binion’s chart-topping article above, about convicted money launderer Philip Esformes being reprosecuted for the same criminal conduct that former President Donald Trump had commuted the final 15 years of his prison sentence for, was cited in a Rep. Andy Biggs (R–Ariz.) letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking to have the charges dropped, and also discussed in bipartisan congressional hearings about criminal justice reform.

Binion’s story about an L.A. SWAT team destroying an innocent man’s printing shop after an armed standoff with a criminal and then refusing to compensate him for the damage became the inspiration for a CNN segment by Jake Tapper. And he was the first reporter to bring what would eventually become a cascade of national attention onto the case of the government seizing, selling, and profiting from the house of a 94-year-old woman just because she had fallen $2,300 behind on her property taxes.

And of course, Senior Editor Jacob Sullum has been writing so well and for so long about the outrage-intersection of enforcing laws prohibiting guns and drugs that he has a whole book coming out on the subject.

Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. Do you want Reason to repeat and expand its criminal-justice outrage coverage, thereby improving people’s lives and creating baby libertarians? Then you know what to do:

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