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...]

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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.

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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.

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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...]

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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...]

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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?

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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...]

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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.)

 

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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.

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Judge Neil Gorsuch on Overcriminalization

On Friday night, the Honorable Neil Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered the Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in Washington, DC. Judge Gorsuch assumed the federal bench in 2006, and his name is frequently mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee in a Republican presidential administration. His remarks on Friday were wide-ranging, but a significant portion focused on overcriminalization. That section of Judge Gorsuch’s talk is transcribed below the video.

“What about our criminal justice system, you might ask. It surely bears its share of ironies too. Consider this one. Without question, the discipline of writing the law down—of codifying it—advances the law’s interest in fair notice. But today we have about 5,000 federal criminal statutes on the books, most of them added in the last few decades, and the spigot keeps pouring, with literally hundreds of new statutory crimes inked every single year.

“Neither does that begin to count the thousands of additional regulatory crimes buried in the federal register. There are so many crimes cowled in the numbing fine print of those pages that scholars have given up counting and are now debating their number.

“When he led the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden worried that we have assumed a tendency to federalize, ‘Everything that walks, talks, and moves.’ Maybe we should say ‘hoots’ too, because it’s now a federal crime to misuse the likeness of Woodsy the Owl. (As were his immortal words: ‘Give a hoot, don’t pollute!’) Businessmen who import lobster tails in plastic bags rather than cardboard boxes can be brought up on charges. Mattress sellers who remove that little tag? Yes, they’re probably federal criminals too.

Whether because of public choice problems or otherwise there appears to be a ratchet, relentlessly clicking away, always in the direction of more, never fewer, federal criminal laws. Some reply that the growing number of federal crimes isn’t out of proportion to our population and its growth. Others suggest that the proliferation of federal criminal laws can be mitigated by allowing the mistake of law defense to be more widely asserted.

But isn’t there a troubled irony lurking here in any event? Without written laws, we lack fair notice of the rules we as citizens have to obey. But with too many written laws, don’t we invite a new kind of fair notice problem? And what happens to individual freedom and equality when the criminal law comes to cover so many facets of daily life that prosecutors can almost choose their targets with impunity?

The sort of excesses of executive authority invited by too few written laws led to the rebellion against King John and the sealing of the Magna Carta, one of the great advances in the rule of law. But history bears warning that too much—and too much inaccessible—law can lead to executive excess as well. Caligula sought to protect his authority by publishing the law in a hand so small and posted so high that no one could really be sure what was and wasn’t forbidden. No doubt all the better to keep us on our toes. (Sorry!)

In Federalist 62, more seriously, Madison warned that when laws become just a paper blizzard citizens are left unable to know ‘what the law is’ and to conform their conduct to it. It’s an irony of the law that either too much or too little can impair liberty. Our aim here has to be for a golden mean, and it may be worth asking today, if we’ve strayed too far from it.”

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