Last week, The Daily Beast published an article highlighting the recent shift in criminal justice policy among conservatives, pointing out several successful initiatives including Right On Crime. The story contains a number of anecdotes about GOP lawmakers shifting gears to adopt a modern view on criminal policy, and it explains why these new ideas are working.
Take, for example, Texas Representative Jerry Madden. Looking back, Madden saw that his party’s “tough on crime” policies had done much more harm than good for public safety, and they had wasted countless taxpayer dollars. In the Daily Beast article, Madden explains that he is an engineer by training, and he saw the prison problem as a bursting pipe: “There seemed to be two answers to this from an engineering standpoint… let ’em out the door faster, or slow ’em down coming in.” He teamed up with Senate Democrat John Whitmire, author of Texas’s famously tough penal code, to tackle the problem. Since 2005, the criminal reform duo’s efforts have saved the state $2 billion, reduced the violent and nonviolent crime rates, and reduced recidivism.
Consider also Mitch Daniels – the Indiana governor who, according to the Daily Beast, gets his haircuts from an ex-con. He emphasizes that prisons cost $55 per day but community treatment costs between $10 and $30. From his standpoint, a smart on crime approach makes perfect fiscal sense. But other conservatives such as Pat Nolan see it as a moral victory “to overcome evil with good.”
KOGO San Diego’s LaDona Harvey interviewed Right On Crime leader Vikrant P. Reddy about the article. When asked why the Republican Party has shifted, Reddy had this to say:
“We’ve got a pendulum. Things ebb and flow from one end to the other, and we’re at a point where we really feel like we’ve gone so hard and so harsh with these sentences that they’re counterproductive – and those came in response to inadequate sentencing in the sixties when we had ideas about rehabilitation ‘saving’ everyone. We were too far left, and now the Republicans have taken us too far to the right and it’s time to settle in the middle.
“Republicans have come to realize that our prisons are full of people who aren’t violent criminals…they need to be punished, but we have to think seriously about what the punishments are, and whether lengthy sentences actually help these people is very questionable. People come to prison and spend time with murderers and rapists, and come out worse than they started.”
Read the full article on The Daily Beast’s website.