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, 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime asking the right questions:
Which criminal laws are overlapping, obsolete, overbroad or vague, or lacking a mens rea provision?
What percent of offenders in community corrections and prison are paying the restitution they owe?
Which treatment, education, and work programs most reduce re-offending for each type of offender?
How many low-risk offenders are going to prison?
How many probationers and parolees are revoked for rule violations who could be safely supervised and treated given sufficient resources?
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.
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.”
ROC Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy discusses Florida’s 85% mandatory minimum sentence requirement with Florida’s WFLA 970.
“Time behind bars may be part of what contributes to public safety, but it’s not all of it. There are other factors involved; it’s very complicated.”