A New Push for Conservative Reform in California

A November ballot initiative in California is directed at reforming the state’s troubled criminal justice system. The California Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, would require that certain non-violent offenders—petty thieves, recipients of stolen property, those who write “hot” checks of less than $950, and low-level drug possession offenders—receive misdemeanor, rather than felony, sentences. The initiative would be made retroactive so that offenders in these categories who are currently serving felony sentences could be re-sentenced at the discretion of the court. Offenders with certain previous violent or sex offenses would be excluded and remain subject to felony sentencing.

State analysts project that the initiative could result in savings in the low hundreds of millions annually. These savings, in turn, would be redirected towards improved drug treatment, mental health services, and victims’ services. The Heritage Foundation discussed the ballot initiative here. Right On Crime signatory, B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., is a prominent advocate for the initiative, and he makes his case for the Act here.

ROC signatory Mike Thompson: “States’ Improvements”

ROC signatory and President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy Mike Thompson authored the following letter to the editor of the Virginian Pilot:

Prison is unquestionably the proper place for violent and repeat offenders, and long sentences for such dangerous felons will always be worth their hefty cost.But as Ken Cuccinelli and Deborah Daniels correctly argued in ‘Use prison time more effectively, humanely’ (column, June 24), many lower-level offenders can be effectively sanctioned in other ways without compromising public safety.

Using research to guide their efforts, a growing list of states Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota among them have reformed their correctional and sentencing systems to expand the use of prison alternatives. Such reforms adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support are not only saving states money but also reducing recidivism. These states hold nonviolent criminals accountable and keep communities safe.

Those who question such a strategy should take note of this compelling fact, reported recently by the Pew Charitable Trusts: States that have cut their imprisonment rates have experienced greater crime decreases than those that increased incarceration.

It’s hard to quarrel with evidence like that. Virginia’s legislators should take note.

More prisons not the answer

Hawke’s Bay Today released an article comparing the prison systems of New Zealand and the United States. Some observations include:

“New Zealand’s imprisonment rate is seventh highest in the OECD, just behind Mexico. We imprison 155 people per 100,000 population, while three quarters of OECD countries sit at 140 per 100,000, according to Statistics New Zealand. The United States’ rate is highest, at 701 per 100,000, and Iceland’s rate is lowest at 37 per 100,000.”

Right on Crime is also mentioned as having a lasting impact on prison numbers across the nation. As Kim Workman, the founder of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, stated:

“As a result of a movement started by prominent US conservatives called ‘Right on Crime’, about 19 states have reduced prison numbers over the past two to three years.”

Click here to read this article

ROC signatory Kevin Kane talks to NPR

Signatory to the Right on Crime statement of principles and President of the Pelican Institute Kevin Kane talks to NPR about Louisiana’s criminal justice system.

“It is a growing consensus on the right that this is the direction we want to be going. Most people will point to, ‘Well, it’s saving money, and that’s all conservatives care about.’ But I think it goes beyond that.”

Click here to read more.

J.C. Watts: Oklahoma must think outside the cell

J.C. Watts, Right on Crime signatory, chairman of the J.C. Watts Companies, and former representative of Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, authored an article for Tulsa World on why the Sooner state’s criminal justice system is ripe for reform.

“As Oklahoma considers reopening prisons to accommodate a burgeoning inmate population, the time is ripe for state leaders to apply their principles of limited government and personal responsibility to criminal justice reform.” Click here to read more.

MacIver Institute’s Brett Healy: Evidence clearly backs cutting incarceration hold

Brett Healy, President of the MacIver Institute in Wisconsin, authored a letter to the editor of The Cap Times in response to Ken Cuccinelli and Deborah Daniels’ article “Less incarceration could lead to less crime.”

Dear Editor: Prison is unquestionably the proper place for violent and repeat offenders, and long sentences for such dangerous felons will always be worth their hefty cost.

But as Ken Cuccinelli and Deborah Daniels correctly argued in their recent piece, millions of lower level offenders can be effectively sanctioned in other ways — without compromising public safety.

Using research to guide their efforts, a growing list of states — from Texas and Georgia to Mississippi and South Dakota — have reformed their correctional and sentencing systems to expand the use of prison alternatives. Such reforms, adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support, are not only saving states money but also reducing recidivism, all while holding offenders accountable and keeping communities safe.

Those who question such a strategy should take note of this compelling fact, reported recently by the Pew Charitable Trusts: States that have cut their imprisonment rates have experienced a greater crime drop than those that increased incarceration.

It’s hard to quarrel with evidence like that.

Brett Healy

President, John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy


Marc Levin appears on YNN’s Capital Tonight

ROC policy director Marc Levin discusses ways we can reduce prison population with YNN’s Capital Tonight.

Cuccinelli, Daniels: “Less incarceration could lead to less crime”

In their co-authored article for Washington Post, Right on Crime signatories Ken Cuccinelli and Deborah Daniels discuss how less incarceration could lead to less crime, and an increase in public safety.

“As conservatives with backgrounds in law enforcement, we embraced the orthodoxy that more incarceration invariably meant less crime, no matter the offense or the danger posed by its perpetrator. But crime rates have been falling since the early 1990s, and a growing body of research combined with the compelling results of reforms in many states prove it is time to adjust our approach.”

Click here to read more.

“Feds Authorize New Georgia Juvenile Justice Reform Dollars”

Federal juvenile justice officials have noticed Georgia’s aggressive reforms and must like what they see because Washington is offering to pony up hundreds of thousands of new dollars to help the state implement ongoing juvenile reforms. On Monday the U.S. Justice Department said it could make up to $600,000 available this year, with similar offers in Hawaii and Kentucky.

Click here to read more from Mike Klein of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Ken Blackwell: “When Father’s Day cards go to jail”

Right on Crime signatory and senior fellow for family empowerment at the Family Research Council Ken Blackwell writes in USA Today: “Given the heavy toll incarcerating a parent takes on most kids, it makes sense to place lower-level offenders under mandatory supervision in the community, allowing them to remain connected to family, gainfully employed and available to nurture their children.”

Click here to read more.