The GOP presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, explained his vision for America’s criminal justice system in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve.
His tough position on crime is a reflection of his personal experience dealing with his mother being a victim of crime, and living through the heightened crime sprees of the 1970’s to 1990’s in New York City.
In 1991, Trump’s then 79 year-old mother, Mary Trump, walked to a bakery in Queens and was mugged. Instead of picking up her crumb cake, she was thrown to the ground by a 16 year-old thug who also stole her purse. Hitting the concrete caused her brain to hemorrhage, which in turn, caused permanent damage to her eyesight and hearing. The culprit, Paul LoCasto was later sentenced to 3-9 years in prison for his crime.
Of the experience, Trump wrote “… in my family we believe in going the extra mile.” He states that his brother contacted the judge to make sure he could attend the trial with the hope of encouraging the maximum punishment possible. “The Trumps believe in getting even,” he added.
Prior to his mother’s mugging, Trump weighed in publicly to a nationwide news story about another crime victim: the Central Park jogger. In fact, most New Yorkers still remember the brutal attack and rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989 referred to as “the Central Park 5.” Five teenagers were accused and convicted of raping and brutally beating a female jogger. In response to the media frenzy surrounding the case, Trump took out a full-page ad in four newspapers, with the headline:
“BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY! BRING BACK OUR POLICE!”
(More than twenty years later, these five men were released from prison and their convictions were vacated– because they were innocent. Another man confessed to the crime, which was confirmed by a DNA test. New York City settled with the men who were falsely accused and convicted.) Trump wrote in response in The New Yorker that, “These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”
Several years later, in, The America We Deserve, Trump specifically stated that he rejects criminal justice reformers’s arguments, even those made by his friends. He wrote:
“They don’t like building more prisons. They believe, at the bottom of their hearts, that we put too many criminals in jail. It’s an embarrassment to them.
“I like to remind these friends that they would be singing a different tune if they didn’t have a doorman downstairs.”
According to a yet released report by the Brennan Center for Justice Trump’s tough view on crime “has not evolved. Trump’s statements confirm this.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, for example, Trump remarked, “No, I’m tough on crime,” meaning, he wasn’t sold on reforming the criminal justice system. “I’m tough on crime, and we have to stop crime. You look at what’s going on in the inner cities right now, it’s unbelievable.”
Earlier this year in March, Trump called for police to arrest protesters at his rallies so that their criminal records would “ruin the rest of their lives,” according to the Brennan Center. It’s no secret that Trump consistently and publicly supports law enforcement, referring to police as “the most mistreated people in this country.”
But in Cleveland, during the GOP Presidential Convention, the delegates will vote on a policy position to reduce the U.S. prison population, which would include reducing the mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes like mugging, of which his mother was a victim.
Only time will tell how tough or soft on crime Trump is. But if the past is any indication, it’s doubtful if he’d substantially change a position he’s held for decades.