Bob Ehrlich: 6 Observations on Reforming Criminal Justice

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...]

WTTW PBS Chicago – Marc Levin Testifies at an Illinois Joint Criminal Justice Reform Committee

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.

Pat Nolan in the Washington Examiner: Looking Back at the Many Costs of the ’94 Crime Bill

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.

Gingrich & Hughes: What California Can Learn from the Red States on Crime and Punishment

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.

Continue reading at the LA Times

Marc Levin Testifies on Criminal Justice Reform Successes in Tennessee

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.

Craig DeRoche on Michigan’s Disproportionate Sentencing in the Detroit News

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.

Continue reading…

Levin named one of Politico’s 50 “thinkers, doers and dreamers” for work in criminal justice reform

AUSTIN, TX—Today, Right on Crime Policy Director Marc A. Levin was named one of Politico’s 50 “thinkers, doers and dreamers who really matter” in 2014. In addition to his work at Right on Crime, Levin is the Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.


Each year, the Beltway-focused political magazine recognizes 50 of the most influential individuals in politics. In its 2014 feature, Politico described the “major shift [in conservative policy on criminal justice] that can be traced in no small part to a Texas attorney named Marc Levin…. To Levin, 38, the principles of prison reform are grounded not in progressivism but in the ideals of limited government, individual liberty and fiscal restraint.”

It continued:

In 2010, Levin co-founded the advocacy group Right on Crime to encourage reforms like eliminating mandatory sentences for low-level crimes and easing penalties for parole violations… His ideas are starting to break through: Between 2011 and 2013, 17 states—roughly half of them governed by Republicans—closed or considered closing a total of more than 60 correctional facilities, and the prison population is finally declining for the first time in two decades.

Politico also highlighted the over 70 influential conservative voices who support Right on Crime’s Statement of Principles on criminal justice reform, including Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist and many others. “Texas Gov. Rick Perry,” the article indicated, “personally credited Levin for his ‘leadership on this critical issue.’”

Levin was pleased at receiving the honor. “I am gratified that Politico has recognized the impact that Right on Crime has had in leading the conservative movement for criminal justice reforms that enhance public safety, empower victims, protect taxpayers, and redeem offenders,” he said.

It is particularly exciting that a list known for spotlighting inside the beltway power brokers now includes someone like me who lives and works in Austin, TX. This is perhaps fitting though because successful criminal justice reforms in states such as Texas, Georgia, and Ohio have been cited as the models for bipartisan legislation now pending in Congress to improve the federal system.

Brooke Rollins, President and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said:

Marc Levin isn’t an elected official; he doesn’t have his own cable news show or best-selling book; and—unlike most on Politico’s list—he lives far outside the Beltway in Austin, Texas. And yet, Marc’s contributions to the public debate about criminal justice and America’s prisons are changing the country, one state at a time. We couldn’t be more proud of what Marc and Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation has achieved.

Levin testified three times before Congress in Washington in 2013 and 2014, and is frequently called on to provide expertise in hearings on criminal justice matters by state legislators. Later this month, he will testify before the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee on September 15-16.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Levin served as a law clerk to Judge Will Garwood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Staff Attorney at the Texas Supreme Court. In 1999, he graduated with honors from the University of Texas with a B.A. in Plan II Honors and Government. In 2002, Levin received his J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law.

Levin’s articles on law and public policy have been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Texas Review of Law & Politics, National Law Journal, New York Daily News, Jerusalem Post, Toronto Star, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Times, Los Angeles Daily Journal, Charlotte Observer, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman, San Antonio Express-News and Reason Magazine.

Politico will toast the ‘Politico 50’ honorees in a reception on Wednesday, September 10 in Washington, DC.

For more information, or to schedule an interview, contact
David Reaboi [email protected] | (202) 431-1948

The Right On Crime initiative promotes conservative ideas on criminal justice. It is a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the American Conservative Union Foundation and the Justice Fellowship.


DeVore: Conservative Reforms to Curb Criminal Recidivism

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...]

Texas’ Seven Lessons for Alabama on Prison Reform

At, 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.

Read the interview…

Of Prisons and Patronage

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.

Continue reading…