At the annual State Policy Network convention in Dallas, Former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich spoke about criminal justice reform and his experience as a supporter of the Right on Crime campaign. The Right on Crime Dinner was co-hosted by the Charles Koch Foundation, and also featured presentations by Right on Crime Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy and William Ruger, Vice President for Research & Policy at the Charles Koch Institute. (Video and transcript below.) [Read more...]
Right on Crime Policy Director Marc Levin testified at an Illinois State Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee hearing this week. WTTW11 PBS Chicago shares Levin’s testimony specifically related to class 4 felony offenders. He commends the state for the steps already taken and offers advice on lowering recidivism rates by shifting resources to the county level. Also providing testimony were representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union along with the Vera Institute of Justice and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
This week, the Washington Examiner published a piece by Pat Nolan, Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the American Conservative Union Foundation and Right on Crime fellow. It was a look back on the 1994 Crime Bill– a massive omnibus package written by then-Senator Joe Biden and passed with overwhelming Democrat support. Now, twenty years on, Nolan looks at the effects of this law and calls it a “bait-and-switch”; after dramatically increasing the number of prisons and inmates, it became obvious that the new facilities are “not packed with violent predators. Instead, they are filled with nonviolent offenders.”
Twenty years ago this month, President Clinton signed into law the Omnibus Crime Bill, amid much self-congratulation by politicians.
Today, however, most observers on the Left and Right are critical of many parts of the bill, and have concluded that the public didn’t get as much public safety as $33 billion should have bought.
The bill offered $9.7 billion to the states for prison construction, setting off a frenzy of prison-building. This was a fool’s bargain. The feds provided one-time money for bricks and mortar, but they attached strings to the funding, requiring the states to severely increase sentences, even for those inmates who could be safely released.
This caused the number of state prisoners to soar, increasing by more than 45 percent, and the number in federal prisons more than doubled. The number of inmates in American prisons and jails grew from 1.01 million in 1994 to 2.3 million today. Roughly one out of every 100 adults in the U.S. is behind bars as you read this.
Continue reading at the Washington Examiner.
This week, Right on Crime signatories Newt Gingrich and B. Wayne Hughes published an important piece in the LA Times entitled, “What California can learn from the red states on crime and punishment.” In it, they make the case for California’s Proposition 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative that’s slated for a vote on November 4.
Gingrich and Hughes describe the problem:
Over-incarceration makes no fiscal sense. California spends $62,396 per prisoner each year, and $10 billion overall, on its corrections system. That is larger than the entire state budget of 12 other states. This expenditure might be worth it if we were safer because of it. But with so many offenders returning to prison, we clearly aren’t getting as much public safety — or rehabilitation — as we should for this large expenditure.
Proposition 47 on the November ballot will do this by changing six nonviolent, petty offenses from felony punishments (which now can carry prison time) to misdemeanor punishments and local accountability.
The measure is projected to save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars per year, and it will help the state emphasize punishments such as community supervision and treatment that are more likely to work instead of prison time.
Right on Crime Policy Director Marc Levin testified at a Tennessee State Senate hearing entitled, “Criminal Justice Reform: What Other States Have Done.” He described the successful efforts in states like Texas, South Carolina and Georgia, where criminal justice reform enhanced public safety and helped cut costs at the same time. Also providing expert testimony was Rebecca Silber and Nancy Fishman of the Vera Institute of Justice.
Writing in the Detroit News, president of Justice Fellowship, former speaker of the House in Michigan, and Right on Crime signatory Craig DeRoche tackles his home state’s record on disproportionate sentencing. He writes,
the forcible deprivation of liberty through incarceration is an awesome state power that is vulnerable to misuse, threatening the republican values that underpin the legitimacy of both the prison and of the state.
One of the ways we should limit government power is through the principle of proportionality. Proportionality requires that crimes be sentenced in relation to their seriousness and to the extent of the offender’s moral culpability.
These days, well-designed, well-managed sentencing systems successfully reduce disparities, make sentencing predictable and make the system more transparent. We now have clear evidence that Michigan’s sentencing system does not accomplish these things.
This week, Fox Business’ The Independents continued their earlier conversation with Chuck DeVore, the Vice President for Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation– this time, showcasing the Right on Crime campaign. He touched on several aspects of the campaign and the effort to reform America’s criminal justice system.
Conservatives ought to be skeptical of big government in all of its forms, not just the welfare state or Obamacare or other such manifestations of big government, but things like crime and the criminal justice system and prisons. If bigger usually isn’t better in the conservative mind set, then maybe we should look at how to reform the criminal justice system: how to keep people out of prison, reduce the crime rate, make people safer and save money. And that is what Right on Crime is all about.
We do have to admit that the violent crime rate did rise by several times from the early 60′s to the early 1990′s, but it’s about half of what it was in 1991 today. So the crime rate has declined quite a bit. But we are spending way too much money on a prison system. We are incarcerating far too many non-violent offenders, and the problem with that is, we often take, when we incarcerate a non-violent offender, give them a “master’s degree in criminal behavior” and eventually they get out. The last thing that we want is for a non-violent offender to come out of prison a more hardened criminal…
Back in 2005–and accelerating in 2007 [in Texas]–you had a bipartisan two-house effort between Senator John Whitmire (a Democrat from the Houston area) and Representative Jerry Madden (a Republican), and they worked together to reform Texas’ criminal-justice and prison system. What ended up happening is, Texas ended up not building three prisons. In fact, they actually shut down three prisons, closed them. They saved about $3 billion in forgone prison construction expenses and shifted some of that money–some of that savings went into monitoring of individuals who were on parole or probation. It’s what we call immediate and intermediate sanctions, so if you put someone else on probation or parole–and they begin to violate by not checking in or coming up positive on a drug test–you don’t wait five or six of seven months and then put them back into prison. You give them an immediate penalty, some incremental penalty, like [having] to spend weekends in jail, or something the get their attention. What we have found is that when you do that, when you increase supervision and when you have these graduated sanctions, what happens is these individuals are more likely to be reformed, more likely to be redeemed, and not reoffend. They can stay out in the workforce, support their families, be tax-paying citizens and get back on the road to being productive people….
Watch the clip… [Read more...]
At AL.com, journalist Wesley Vaughn spoke to Right on Crime Senior Fellow and former Texas House Chairman of Corrections Jerry Madden about Alabama’s urgently-needed prison reforms.
“What would Texas do?” That question is what Alabama’s public officials are asking as they prepare to tackle prison reform for the 2015 legislative session.
The Texas Model has been praised nationally by Democrats and Republicans for stabilizing the state’s prison population in the face of troublesome projections.
Several commentators have taken Sen. Dick Durbin to task this week for his conflicting tweets on prisons. On one hand, the Illinois senator rightly expressed concern about increasing prison populations; in another tweet, however, he praised ballooning spending on prisons as Keynesian ‘stimulus packages’ for the local economy. Derek Cohen, policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice, addressed the larger issues in The Hill, arguing that cutting costs goes hand-in-hand with more effective criminal justice policies.
Arresting prison population growth while keeping the public safe is one of a few issues on which Congress is showing bipartisan agreement. Academics, practitioners and politicians from all across the political spectrum have highlighted meaningful ways federal law and corrections policy can be reformed at no detriment to public safety…. Federal prison overcrowding can be greatly diminished, if not eliminated, with sensible criminal justice reform…. Opening facilities for the sake of jobs is unsustainable fiscal and criminal justice policy.