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 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.

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…

Norquist & Monson: Let’s Reserve Costly Prison Beds for Dangerous Offenders

Utah is embarking on an effort to reform its criminal justice system by convening a Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Writing in Deseret News, Right on Crime signatories Grover Norquist and Derek Monson addressed the importance of the state’s newly-convened Commission. As the authors make clear, this is a positive first step towards criminal justice reforms that increase public safety while cutting costs associated with incarceration—similar to reforms implemented in Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and other states. Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform, and Monson is policy director at the Sutherland Institute in Utah.

As the economy continues to sputter, Utah should continue to heed the practical wisdom of the frugal family and tighten its belt. There can be no sacred cows in the budget.

One area of spending that has traditionally been “off limits” for cuts — the prison system — can no longer escape examination. Utah’s growing prison population, which currently costs state taxpayers more than $250 million annually, is projected to add an additional 2,700 prison beds in the next two decades. If that increase would make us safer, it would be worth it.

But many of these additional beds are not for dangerous and serious offenders. In fact, Utah is sending more nonviolent offenders to prison than it did a decade ago and keeping them behind bars for longer periods of time. This includes a steep increase in female offenders as well as probationers sent to prison for “technical violations” of the terms of their supervision rather than for committing a new crime. In other words, many of those we choose to send to prison (or back to prison) are low-risk, nonviolent offenders.

This is costly and counterproductive. Research shows that low-level offenders often leave prison more dangerous than when they entered.

As conservatives, we pride ourselves on being tough on crime, but we also must be tough on criminal justice spending. The question underlying every tax dollar spent on corrections should be: Is this making the public safer?

We support cost-effective approaches that strengthen families, hold offenders accountable and protect public safety while keeping punishments reasonably in line with the seriousness of the crime committed. While prisons most certainly play an essential role in keeping serious criminals behind bars, it makes no sense for low-level offenders to occupy expensive prison beds when there are proven less costly ways to supervise them in the community without hindering public safety.

Across the nation, other states have faced the same dramatic increases in prison costs, which are now the second-fastest-growing item in state budgets behind only Medicaid. Several of these states have found innovative ways to cut corrections spending while maintaining public safety. Texas, for instance, scrapped plans to build more prisons and put much of the savings into drug courts and treatment, with impressive results: Crime rates are at their lowest since 1968, and the falling inmate population enabled Texas to close three prisons, avoiding $3 billion in prison costs.

States like Georgia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Mississippi and South Dakota have adopted similar reforms that reduce prison populations and corrections costs while improving public safety, allowing them to reinvest some of the savings into programs proven to cut crime and reduce recidivism.

Most importantly, these reforms are allowing states to provide those who have made poor choices in their past a genuine opportunity to turn their lives around, reform themselves and become productive members of society.

And Utah is up next. Last week, a coalition including Gov. Gary Herbert, Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart, Chief Justice Matthew Durrant and Attorney General Sean Reyes embarked on a process to make smarter public safety decisions that will save on taxpayer spending. They have called on the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to examine the state’s criminal justice system and develop policies proven to cut crime and criminal justice spending.

As signatories to the national Right on Crime movement, we are conservative leaders working to apply our conservative principles to the criminal justice system. As such, we are pleased that Utah is joining other states in demanding more cost-effective approaches to public safety, and we wholeheartedly support the efforts of Utah’s leadership to create a more effective criminal justice system.

Utah has an exceptional history and tradition of industry, personal responsibility and support for essential, self-governing institutions, such as faith and the family. It is time to apply these principles to the criminal justice system. We are eager to see CCJJ’s policy recommendations in the coming months and look forward to smarter taxpayer investments, safer communities and stronger families for Utah.

 This article originally appeared in Desert News.

DeVore: We’re Not Getting Our Money’s Worth from an Ineffective Criminal Justice System

Texas Public Policy Foundation Vice President Chuck DeVore appeared on Fox Business’ The Independents on Tuesday night to discuss his experience restoring order in the National Guard during the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

DeVore contrasts the militarized firepower of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri with the National Guard. He points out that, in many ways, local law enforcement is more weaponized today than the state’s National Guard is. And, according to DeVore, that militarization of law enforcement is “troubling in an America with a violent crime rate that’s half of what it was in 1992.” It’s “symptomatic of a larger problem in America, where we’re putting more and more money into our criminal justice system and getting less back.” [Read more...]

David Reaboi joins Right on Crime as new Communications Director

AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation announced today that David Reaboi has joined the Foundation’s Right on Crime campaign as Strategic Communications Director.

Right on Crime is a nationally recognized effort to support effective, proven and conservative reforms to the criminal justice system on both state and federal levels. Since 2010, Right on Crime has been successful in promoting policy ideas to reduce crime and maintain public safety while lowering costs to the taxpayer and emphasizing restitution to victims.

“It’s not often that public policy programs are truly both common-sense and innovative,” Mr. Reaboi said, “and the work done at Right on Crime and at TPPF is is both. I’m excited and honored to be at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, working with inspiring professionals on the crucial mission of bringing conservative reforms to a criminal justice system that sorely needs it.”

David Reaboi comes to the Texas Public Policy Foundation from the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC, where he served for six years as Vice-President for Strategic Communications. He is a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute.

Marc Levin, Right on Crime’s Policy Director, as well as the Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said: “He brings a lot of experience in communications, media relationships and strategic thinking to everything he does. With David on board, we look forward to supporting proven, conservative reforms to more states across America.”

“We’re pleased to welcome David to the Right on Crime movement,” said Chuck DeVore, Vice President of Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “He spent his time in Washington shaping policy in new and innovative ways. He will be a valuable addition to the team.”

Erick Erickson: Support Right on Crime

RedState Editor (and Right on Crime signatory) Erick Erickson endorses the Right on Crime campaign at the 2014 RedState Gathering in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Earlier, Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy interviewed Senior Fellow and Former Texas House Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden about his involvement in corrections reform in Texas and about the national work of Right on Crime.

ERICK ERICKSON: Folks, as they’re leaving the stage, I want to say Red State signed on and I personally signed on to the Right On Crime agenda, having been a lawyer for a number of years and also doing a lot of indigent criminal defense. I was – as one of those hard on crime, lock them all the way people, just how absurd it is that the level of criminalisation, business regulations, and so many things that shouldn’t put people away for years in jail, and, frankly, in a lot of cases, people who very much need help who instead of getting help are being thrown in jail forever, it’s – I encourage you to get involved and understand what Right On Crime is about because, you know, conservatives can take a tough stance on crime, but why are we putting good Americans away and ruining lives for things that you and I, we scratch our head over and say, this is just dumb?

Jerry Madden: Conservative Principles & Victories in Criminal Justice Reform

At the 2014 RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas, Right on Crime Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy spoke with Former Texas House Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden about his involvement in criminal justice reform in Texas and about his subsequent national work with the Right on Crime campaign.

Wrapping up the event, RedState Editor Erickson gave Right on Crime a ringing endorsement. Watch that video here. The complete event transcript is below. [Read more...]

Rick Perry: The Success of Texas’ Criminal Justice Reforms

In a speech at the annual RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Gov. Rick Perry mentioned the common-sense, conservative criminal justice reforms that have done so much to lower crime in his state. The governor acknowledged the efforts of former Former Texas House Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden in promoting the key prison and sentencing reforms that would come to form Right on Crime’s policy agenda.

At the same conference, Madden– now a senior fellow at the Right on Crime campaign– spoke with ROC senior policy analyst Vikrant Reddy about the need for principled, conservative reform in the states.

While Texas still has the nation’s fourth highest adult incarceration rate, an increased emphasis on policies that are both tough and smart has enabled the state to turn the tide and reduce crime while controlling costs to taxpayers. (Find out more about the Texas success story on crime here.)

 

ROC’s Pat Nolan on PBS Newshour: Debating Criminal Justice Reform

Right on Crime’s Pat Nolan appears on PBS Newshour to discuss criminal justice reform.

From the website’s description:

The calls to address prison crowding and conditions have intensified as American inmate populations have grown. Jeffrey Brown gets debate on the shifting perceptions of the criminal justice system from Bill McCollum, former attorney general of Florida, Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative, and Pat Nolan of the American Conservative Union Foundation.