Right on Crime Applauds Passage of Juvenile Reforms in Georgia House

AUSTIN – Today, the Right on Crime campaign congratulated the Georgia House of Representatives for unanimously passing HB 242. This bill would enact comprehensive juvenile justice reforms recommended by the Governor’s Special Council on Justice Reform.

HB 242 would refocus Georgia’s juvenile justice system on programs that actually work to keep streets safer. The bill would redirect a portion of Georgia’s current expenditures toward programs that have been shown to reduce the likelihood of youths to re-offend and help them on a path to becoming productive adults. For example, it would ensure that risk assessment instruments are used so that decision-makers have accurate information.

The legislation would also target the state’s resources towards higher-level offenders and save the state nearly $85 million through 2018, which would avoid the opening of two additional juvenile residential facilities. The bill will now go to the Georgia Senate for consideration.

Right on Crime Policy Director Marc Levin said, “We are happy to see yet another state move forward on public safety reforms that align with conservative principles of limited government, individual liberty, and personal responsibility. We hope the Georgia Senate will take up this legislation soon.

Georgia broke ground last year by passing comprehensive legislation to right-size its criminal justice system. The adult reform package, which also received unanimous support, aimed to improve public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control skyrocketing corrections costs. The legislature is now turning that same focus toward the juvenile justice system.

Right on Crime is a national campaign of the Texas Public Policy Foundation that supports fighting crime, prioritizing victims and protecting taxpayers. It was founded in 2010 in order to increase public awareness of the conservative position on criminal justice policy, based on values such as limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility.

National conservative leaders such as tax activist Grover Norquist, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and former federal “drug czar” Bill Bennett are among those who have signed the Right on Crime Statement of Principles.

Marc Levin is Policy Director of the Right on Crime campaign.

Right on Crime is a national campaign of the Texas Public Policy Foundation that supports fighting crime, prioritizing victims and protecting taxpayers.

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Marc Levin on NPR’s On Point radio show

Policy Director Marc Levin appeared on NPR’s On Point radio show to discuss the costs of prisons. Here is the link.

Right on Crime supports applying the principles of limited government to the criminal justice system. We believe that the system should preserve public safety, provide justice, reduce crime and lessen costs.

Ashley Sewell Joins the Right on Crime Team

AUSTIN – Ashley Sewell, formerly CEO of Carnivore Media, a boutique online image management firm, is bringing her talent to the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right on Crime campaign. Ashley will continue working for smaller government, lower taxes, and increased personal responsibility both in Texas, as well as the rest of the nation.

It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of such an influential and dynamic team,” Sewell said.  “I am greatly anticipating bringing new ideas and perspectives to an already successful effort.  Right on Crime draws attention to much needed reform in the criminal justice system and reminds conservatives why this issue, with its focus on delivering more effective, less costly public safety, should be near the top of our agenda.”

With a background in marketing and sales, Ashley will be able to not only efficiently communicate with legislators and other policy makers, but also activists and apolitical citizens alike.

Ashley has the unique ability to take complex policies and translate them easily into compelling messages, and will be instrumental in expanding our audience,” added Marc Levin, Policy Director for Right on Crime. “Her fluency in social media has earned her a reputation as a highly-sought online marketing consultant, a skill that will certainly benefit our team.”

Ashley previously served as the North Texas Field Director for the Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate Campaign in 2012.  She was mentored by the late Andrew Breitbart, who taught her to take initiative and be steadfast in her conservative values.

In 2011, Sewell was named among ELLE Magazine’s “The Best and The Rightest,” a spotlight on conservative women shaping the political landscape. In the same year she was named Smart Girl Politics “Educator of the Year” for her work in grassroots activist training.  Ashley is no stranger to local and national media outlets, having appeared on CNN, NPR, CBS, NBC, The Mark Davis Show, and From the Right Radio.

Marc Levin is Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Right on Crime is a national campaign that supports fighting crime, prioritizing victims and protecting taxpayers.

Primary website: www.rightoncrime.com

Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/RightOnCrime

Twitter feed: www.Twitter.com/RightOnCrime

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South Dakota Passes Right on Crime Reforms into Law

AUSTIN – Today, the Right on Crime campaign congratulated South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard for signing major criminal justice reforms into law. These reforms would reduce costs by holding nonviolent offenders accountable through parole, probation, drug courts and other cost-effective programs.

Foundation President and CEO Brooke Rollins said, “We are happy to see yet another state move forward on criminal justice reforms that align with conservative principles of limited government, individual liberty, and free enterprise. We applaud Governor Daugaard and South Dakota lawmakers for taking bold actions that will reduce crime while saving the taxpayers millions of dollars.”

The bill, The South Dakota Public Safety Improvement Act (SB 70), was signed into law at a ceremony at the state capitol building in Pierre. The Right on Crime campaign helped educate lawmakers and the public about conservative support for criminal justice reforms in states around the country.

Marc Levin, Policy Director for Right on Crime added, “Criminal justice reform advocates are celebrating today across the country. Because of these reforms, South Dakota will not need to build two more prisons. Instead, the state will save money, provide better public safety and reduce recidivism.”

Right on Crime is a national campaign of the Texas Public Policy Foundation that supports fighting crime, prioritizing victims and protecting taxpayers. It was founded in 2010 in order to increase public awareness of the conservative position on criminal justice policy, based on values such as limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility.

National conservative leaders such as Grover Norquist, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and former federal “drug czar” Bill Bennett are among those who have signed the Right on Crime Statement of Principles.

Brooke Rollins is President and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Marc Levin is Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Right on Crime is a national campaign that supports fighting crime, prioritizing victims and protecting taxpayers.

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Hunstein: Georgia at “Crossroads in Juvenile Justice History”

This post also appears on the blog of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein declared the state is at a “crossroads in juvenile justice history” and challenged the General Assembly to expand mental health services for “clearly disturbed youngsters” during her final State of the Judiciary address, telling lawmakers, “We wait for the explosion and it will come” unless courts have more resources for dealing with juveniles who are clearly at risk to themselves and others.

Hunstein delivered her final State of the Judiciary Address to the General Assembly Thursday morning in Atlanta.  Her term as Chief Justice expires later this year.  Hunstein devoted a major section of her remarks to adult and juvenile justice system reforms.  Legislators enacted the start of adult reforms in 2012; this year they will consider a large juvenile justice system bill.

“What does a judge do with a chronic runaway girl who comes before him with untreated mental health problems and a history of being sexually exploited while living on the streets?  What does a judge do with the boy who repeatedly is charged with shoplifting but whose family is seriously dysfunctional?” Hunstein told lawmakers.

“Most juvenile judges say they do not want to send these children to locked facilities, but with no community resources and fearing for the children’s safety, they feel they have no alternative.  As one juvenile judge recently wrote, without resources at home, detention becomes a default when the hammer is the only tool in the toolbox.”

Chief Justice Hunstein opened her 27-minute address with a summary of adult reforms that are underway based on recommendations made in 2011 by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.  Diversion of non-violent offenders away from costly prison beds into alternative programs has enabled the state to slow the growth of its prison population.  Hunstein said the state is “on track to save $264 million in five years.”  Fewer state inmates are being held in county jails.  Twelve new drug and mental health courts opened last along with several substance abuse and mental health treatment centers.

The Chief Justice also emphasized “the beginning of a new way of handling long-term inmates who have served many years – sometimes decades – in prison.  The fact is that 95 percent of this state’s 57,000 prison inmates will eventually walk out of prison; only 5 percent will die there.”  Last month state Pardons and Paroles began to assign “max-out” inmates to residential transition centers six months before their final release date.

“But the best measure of success is counted in the many individual lives that are being changed daily as a result of these accountability courts,” Hunstein said.  She added, “I have been honored to receive personal letters from a number of the graduates.  One graduate wrote: ‘On October 31, I went to court and regained full custody of my 6-year-old son, Nicholas.  It was the happiest day of my life other than the day he was born.  I am so grateful for the opportunity of giving back when I, for so long, took away.”

The General Assembly is waiting to see legislation that would dramatically realign the state’s juvenile justice system, completely rethink the antiquated juvenile civil code and, expected in a separate bill, put a few new tools into adult system reforms from last year.

“Today, we as Georgians – and as a nation – stand at a crossroads in juvenile justice history,” Hunstein told Senate and House members.  “We have learned just as we did with adult criminal justice that cracking down on juvenile crime is not enough.  We also must be smart about juvenile crime and take action to reduce it.”

Hunstein said based on average daily population, 2,000 youths are detained in youth long-term detention centers that are the equivalent of adult prisons, youth short-term detention centers or residential programs such as group homes.  The Chief Justice said more than half committed non-violent offenses, 40 percent are considered low-risk and one-quarter were adjudicated for a misdemeanor or status offense that would not be a crime if committed by an adult.

The state spends $91,000 a year to incarcerate a juvenile in youth prison, vastly more than $19,000 spent per year to incarcerate an adult.  Hunstein said, “The difference in cost is based on young people’s educational and other needs that must be met under state and federal laws.

“But consider the return we get on every dollar spent housing these juveniles:  Of the 619 children in our youth prisons, nearly 65 percent will commit another offense within three years of getting out – and nearly every one of them will get out.

“We know one thing for certain:  Spending $91,000 a year to lock up a juvenile and getting 65 percent recidivism is not working,” Hunstein said.  “We can be smarter with taxpayer dollars.  More importantly, we can produce a safer Georgia.”

Juvenile justice reform legislation is expected to emphasize expansion of community treatment options when incarceration is not required and would not benefit a juvenile. Governor Nathan Deal included a $5 million line item in next year’s budget to help jump start these programs.

Presiding Justice Hugh Thompson will succeed Hunstein as Chief Justice later this year.

Two Smart on Crime States Post Results

Taxpayers in Pennsylvania are footing the bill for 454 fewer inmates this month than they were a year ago, while South Carolina’s citizens are paying for 2,700 fewer inmates.

Why? Pennsylvania created a more effective parole and processing system, while recent legislative alterations to drug and low-level crimes will further the prison population drop.

In South Carolina, the Legislature and Governor three years ago prioritized sending violent offenders to prison for a longer time, while providing for alternative sentences for nonviolent offenders, and created a more effective probation supervision system. The prison population drop resulted in two prison closures and $175 million in avoided prison construction costs.

Both states came to the realization that one-size-fits-all prison policies are expensive, and aren’t actually the best way to protect the public safety. Instead, prioritizing prison beds for violent offenders while doing more to get non-violent and low-risk offenders back on the right path can save millions and do far more to keep citizens safe.

Prison Population Continues to Drop in Colorado

A little less than a year ago, Right on Crime mentioned that Colorado was considering closing a prison. They’ve done so—three, actually. And now the state is looking at closing even more.

That’s because statisticians in that state expect 2,600 to 3,600 more beds will be empty by the summer of 2014.

The reasons Colorado has seen such a significant drop in prison populations are varied. From an aging population, to more effective substance abuse reduction tactics, to gang-intervention programs, to swift-and-sure probation and supervision policies, the state is housing 7,500 fewer inmates than what was projected for this year.

And when the state tacks on around 3,000 beds to that figure, Colorado could close anywhere from two to ten facilities. Now Colorado legislators are faced with making the decisions of which facilities to close—which is a pretty fiscally fortunate decision to have to make.

Universities of Crime: Post-Incarceration Illegal Earnings

Right on Crime has often discussed how, in particular situations, public safety is actually harmed by the incarceration of low-risk and medium-risk youth. This theory colloquially deems youth lock-ups “universities of crime,” and focuses on how certain youth may learn all the wrong lessons from older and more high-risk youth when locked up alongside them.

A professor from Ohio, Donald Hutcherson, decided to dig into this theory a bit more. As NPR summarized, Professor Hutcherson studied a federal data collection that includes surveys of youth and young adults after serving time in a lockup or in prison. He found that those who spent time behind bars reported an average of $11,000 more in illegal earnings after leaving secure placement.

Now, it is important not to conflate correlation and causation in these findings. It is entirely possible that such an increase in illegal earnings would have occurred without a term in a lockup or prison, and that the illegal earnings are sourced to factors irrespective of time in a secure facility. It is not possible to control for such factors.

But if prison were a perfect solution, there would be no increase in illegal earnings following time behind bars—in fact, none at all. If prisons and juvenile lockups perfectly cured the criminal impulse, former inmates and wards would report no illegal earnings whatsoever.

Instead, the increase in illegal earnings shows us that prison or juvenile lockups are not a one-size-fits all solution to the problem of crime and the path to public safety. Such facilities are indeed a valuable tool, but must be used judiciously.

Pat Nolan on Bloggingheads TV

Pat Nolan of Prison Fellowship interviews with Bloggingheads TV.  Check out the video below!

Pat Nolan on Bloggingheads TV

Latest Right on Crime Minute Video

Here is the latest Right on Crime minute video. It contains some good news!

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