There is a new conservative prison reform movement in America. It is working to remove or lesson mandatory minimum sentences, and to increase releases of non-violent criminals, and to reverse prison policies many of which were previously passed into law by conservatives.
“As a conservative who puts family first, I am encouraged to see that states are reforming their juvenile justice systems to produce better results for victims, offenders and taxpayers.”
In this National Review article, Texas is recognized as “a state with an enlightened leadership that keenly appreciates the fact that anti-crime measures adopted during the epidemic decades from the late 1960s to the early 1990s have in some part outlived their usefulness.”
Following Marc Levin’s U.S. Judiciary Committee testimony concerning mandatory minimums, he told Kevin Williamson at National Review: “A few decades ago, most federal offenders were white-collar criminals or international drug kingpins, but now there are a lot of small-fry offenders convicted of possession, dealing to their families, things like that. They need to be held accountable, but in a way that is commensurate. The stars are aligning for some success at the federal level, which in the past has been elusive.”
In an op-ed published in today’s Statesman Journal, Right on Crime signatory and NRA president David Keene urges conservatives to examine whether taxpayers are getting the most from the money spent on public safety. He highlights state data that shows Oregon’s criminal justice system is not passing this cost-benefit test.
While Oregon has been a leader in effective corrections and sentencing policies, the state has started to veer off course over the last decade, with M11 and M57 driving a lot of the costly growth. State data shows the growing prison population will cost taxpayers $600 million in new spending over the coming decade.
Mr. Keene, a long-time opponent of mandatory minimums, calls on Oregon policymakers to turn the conservative lens of fiscal accountability and limited government on the state’s criminal justice system and support reforms that will spend public safety dollars more wisely.
Right on Crime works in many states to elevate the conservative voice for criminal justice reform, including Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas.
Vikrant Reddy joined The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis today to talk about conservative ideas for criminal justice reform. They spoke about Senator Rand Paul’s speech to Howard University yesterday, as well as our broader Right on Crime issue set. LISTEN NOW!
Also, here is a blog post up at the DC where Lewis describes the interview and podcast.
Read the full text of Senator Rand Paul’s speech at Howard University today. He focused on how conservative values, including those that deal with criminal justice reform, can better people’s lives and limit government power.
Here is an excerpt from the speech today.
Our federal mandatory minimum sentences are simply heavy handed and arbitrary. They can affect anyone at any time, though they disproportionately affect those without the means to fight them.
We should stand and loudly proclaim enough is enough. We should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence.
That’s why I have introduced a bill to repeal federal mandatory minimum sentences. We should not have drug laws or a court system that disproportionately punishes the black community.
We were pleased to read this article in The Washington Times by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. The good senator is supporting Right on Crime principles of fighting crime, prioritizing victims and saving taxpayer dollars. He is trying to move legislation that would reform the federal mandatory minimum laws currently on the books.
Senator Paul knows that there is a growing movement of conservatives who are trying to do smart criminal justice reform, based on our time-honored principles of limited government and personal responsibility — and he is helping to lead this reform effort with his steady drumbeat of articles, speeches and new media outreach. It’s both good policy and good politics, and we hope that other senators will follow suit. Below is an excerpt from the article.
Judges will tell you that current federal sentencing laws — known as mandatory minimums — don’t actually do anything to keep us safer. In fact, judges will tell you that mandatory minimums do much harm to taxpayers and to individuals, who may have their lives ruined for a simple mistake or minor lapse of judgment.
Ignoring these rights comes with several tangible costs. In the last 30 years, the number of federal inmates has increased from 25,000 to nearly 219,000. That is nearly a 10-fold increase in federal prisoners, each of whom cost the taxpayers $29,027 a year to incarcerate. The federal prison budget has doubled in 10 years to more than $6 billion
Our policy experts Vikrant Reddy and Marc Levin wrote an excellent piece recently for The American Conservative magazine. It’s entitled, “The Conservative Case Against More Prisons” and appeared in the latest issue of the magazine.
Here is an excerpt:
There are other ways to hold offenders—particularly nonviolent ones—accountable. These alternatives when properly implemented can lead to greater public safety and increase the likelihood that victims of crime will receive restitution. The alternatives are also less costly. Prisons are expensive (in some states, the cost of incarcerating an inmate for one year approaches $60,000), and just as policymakers should scrutinize government expenditures on social programs and demand accountability, they should do the same when it comes to prison spending. None of this means making excuses for criminal behavior; it simply means “thinking outside the cell” when it comes to punishment and accountability.
Last month, Right On Crime’s Jeanette Moll traveled to Kentucky to present research on juvenile justice to stakeholders involved in reforming several aspects of the state juvenile system — including how it handles status offenders. A task force in Kentucky is studying the issue, and it is looking for lessons from Texas’s experience. While in Louisville, Moll sat down with Ryan Alessi of Pure Politics to discuss cost-effective juvenile justice:
When criminal justice systems reduce prison populations and reinvest a portion of the savings in evidence-based methods of reducing crime, not only are taxpayer dollars saved, but more efficient and effective programs can be fiscally prioritized.
For example, Kentucky is using a portion of the savings from reduced prison populations to fund drug treatment beds that aim to get more Kentucky offenders off drugs—for good. Recent data showed Kentucky policymakers that drug treatment can cut recidivism among otherwise addicted inmates by one-third, and the Kentucky Legislature jumped at the chance to save money and reduce crime in their state.
In Hawaii, crime victims will receive additional attention as some of the justice reinvestment savings are used to fund victim counselors and their support staff. This will permit their victims’ outreach efforts to expand from violent crime victims to violent and property crime victims, and for longer periods of time. Putting the focus on victims in this way not only makes the criminal justice system more responsive to community needs, but also what is necessary to make the harmed party whole after the criminal act.