’Soft on crime’ attacks target Republicans who favor changes

  • FILE - Inmates being released from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center walk through the gate at the prison, Nov. 4, 2019, in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican running for a second term, is facing criticism for a 2019 mass commutation he said saved the state millions of dollars in prison costs. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

  • FILE - Aurora, Ill. Mayor Richard Irvin holds a media briefing June 1, 2020 in Aurora, Ill. Irvin, a former prosecutor and defense attorney, faces several Republicans in the Illinois GOP gubernatorial primary. (Rick West/Daily Herald via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With violent crime increasing in much of the U.S., Republicans see a winning strategy in portraying Democrats as soft on crime ahead of this year’s elections. But the attacks are different in Oklahoma, where Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt is being blamed for mass commutations and a crime that involved cannibalism. The criticism of fellow Republicans is intensifying a split within the GOP between hard-liners and those conservatives who have shifted to support alternatives to prisons, largely as a way to save money. Groups that advocate various types of criminal justice reform worry the attacks could jeopardize meaningful changes.