OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The rising level of violent crime in Democrat-run cities around the country has become a major campaign issue for an increasing number of Americans ahead of the November midterms, and voters are taking new looks at candidate statements regarding the issue.
In Pennsylvania, for example, where GOP Senate nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz is taking on Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the issue has become so crucial that even police officials are speaking out.
According to the New York Post, Fetterman — who is also chairman of Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons — “commissioned two reports last year released by Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) that recommended the BOP consider merit-based clemency for currently incarcerated second-degree murderers, as well as for the state legislature to reform the law that mandates life sentences without parole for second-degree murder convictions.”
At the time of the commissioning, Fetterman said he did it in a call for “mercy for the deserving and rehabilitated.”
During a March 1, 2021, PLSE press conference, the Democratic official said that the reports documented “the lives that are destroyed” and “the resources that are wasted” due to the statute. He also said he hoped that the findings would “lead to a conversation” that could lead to some 1,200 current inmates being freed.
“I hope that it could lead to a conversation that would free close to 1,200 people of a legacy that never made sense, that encompasses victims’ input, encompasses their conduct and behavior in prison, it takes a look at the resources that are wasted that…,” said Fetterman.
If you did not take a life, Pennsylvania should not take yours by incarceration.
For the 1st time in PA, my office is proactively evaluating and encouraging commutations for those condemned to die in prison.
Justice should allow for redemption. https://t.co/yRvwm8K7Xj
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) November 17, 2019
“I always want to err on the side of mercy,” Fetterman said during the press conference. “Juvenile lifers released by a Supreme Court decision, the recidivism rate was less than 1 percent. That’s a remarkable statistic. That demonstrates that these individuals, once they are released, are not Hannibal Lecters, they’re out living their best lives. … You age out of crime. Now imagine people who have never taken a life to begin with, imagine what that recidivism rate would be.”
Fetterman’s campaign has since tried to walk back those remarks after Oz picked up on them.
Now, the candidate “supports common sense criminal justice reforms that keep Pennsylvanians safe and protected while saving taxpayers money,” Fetterman campaign spokesman Joe Calvello claimed in a statement to Fox News Digital. “He believes there are people who deserve to spend the rest of their life in prison for the crimes they’ve committed. But the decision to do this should be left to judges and parole boards not politicians in Harrisburg.”
But Oz’s campaign has focused on Fetterman’s previous statements in which he appeared to argue in favor of releasing murderers. “Dr. Oz has surged in the polls because John Fetterman is the most pro-murderer candidate in America,” said Barney Keller, a spokesman for Oz, told The New York Times.
The attacks appear to be effective: Just the News reports that the Philadelphia police union, which traditionally supports Democratic candidates, has come out in support of Oz instead, calling his campaign the “last thin line” between safety and chaos.
“We need, and this is very key, we need to have Dr. Oz in this position to support our law enforcement,” said Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby, NBC Philadelphia reports. “That’s the last thin line that the community has to be able to keep themselves safe.”
The outlet continued:
McNesby and the FOP were vehement opponents of [Philly District Attorney Larry] Krasner’s 2021 re-election, which the DA won in a landslide over his opponent, a former assistant district attorney who Krasner fired when he first took office in 2018. The FOP’s support in that race wasn’t the only local law enforcement endorsement. The Guardian Civic League, which is a coalition of minority city police officers, came out to support Krasner.
The FOP did split its endorsement across party lines, with Democrat Josh Shapiro getting the union’s endorsement on Monday in the Pennsylvania governor’s race. Shapiro, the state attorney general, faces Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano.