Vikrant Reddy: “Three myths about conservatives and criminal justice”

Vikrant Reddy details 3 myths about conservatives and criminal justice – and proves why they aren’t true.

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Fox News: “Conservatives join push to roll back mandatory prison sentences”

Following Marc Levin’s testimony before the U.S. Judiciary Committee, this Fox News story features Right on Crime, noting that “The project has since been part of recent, successful efforts in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina to reform their systems through such changes as reducing penalties for low-level drug possessions; expanding the use of time- and cost-efficient drug courts; using money once earmarked for prisons to improve law-enforcement strategies and expanding community-based programs for offenders, including treatment.”

Read the full article here.

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Norquist-Gleason: Holder follows GOP lead in easing harsh drug laws

ROC signatory Grover Norquist co-authors this Reuters op-ed with Patrick Gleason, in which they further discuss how U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is late to the party regarding criminal justice reforms, noting that “it has been Republicans in the states who are leading the way.”

“Consider Texas, where the smart-on-crime policy reform movement began in 2003, when the state’s Republican legislators passed a law mandating that all non-dealer drug offenders convicted for possession of less than a gram be sentenced to probation instead of jail time.

Recognizing the success of smart-on-crime reforms in Texas, other states have now followed [Right on Crime's] lead.”

Read the full Reuters op-ed here.

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Harsh Results from Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuse

Recent coverage in both popular and independent media has drawn national attention to the practice of civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture (or CAF) is the practice of taking legal action against an inanimate object for its alleged role in criminal activity, regardless of the owner’s complicity. While ostensibly nonsensical, one need only look at cases like United States v. $10,500 in U.S. CurrencyState of New Jersey v. One 1990 Ford Thunderbird, or Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. The Real Property and Improvements Known as 2544 N. Colorado Street to see the utter absurdity of the practice.

CAF is different from criminal asset forfeiture, whereby the State takes one’s property after having convicted the accused, who is entitled to all the procedural safeguards of a criminal trial.

Since a Ford Thunderbird does not enjoy the same presumption of innocence a criminal defendant does, the owner of the property bears the burden of proof in establishing their innocence in the matter in 38 states (including ostensibly libertarian-minded states like Idaho, New Hampshire, and Texas).

Six states have laws that vary depending on the property, and only six states place the burden of proof on the government.

Given the widespread tolerance of the practice, it is no surprise that abuses are relatively easy to find.

A particularly outrageous example of CAF abuse was recently highlighted in ProPublica. Rochelle Bing, a home health assistant, faced the potential loss of her Philadelphia home after her son sold crack-cocaine to an informant. She was unaware that her son was engaged in such activities, and no evidence of narcotics distribution was found when law enforcement officials searched the house.

However, as Pennsylvania is amongst the 38 states that require the property’s owner to prove their innocence and that property can be seized on the preponderance of the evidence it was used in the commission of a crime, Ms. Bing was forced to fight for her home. With the assistance of the University of Pennsylvania’s Legal Clinic, Ms. Bing was able to retain her property, though not before 23 separate court appearances over two years.

While the Philadelphia District Attorney stands to the benefit from the post-seizure sale of the home, the office defends the practices suggesting that neighborhoods benefit from the removal of “nuisance properties.”

This case, while tragic, is by no means uncommon. In FY 2012, the federal government alone remitted over $447 million back to the states in equitable sharing payments (payments for property seized by a federal agency paid to state and local police agencies in order to “foster cooperation” among the different strata of law enforcement).

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NPR Weekend Edition Saturday: “What’s Wrong With Mandatory Sentencing?”

Marc Levin: “[there] are better ways to [hold offenders accountable] than mandatory minimums, particularly when it comes to non-violent offenders. And we think that the attorney general is a bit late to the party. It’s five years into the administration; and we’ve seen states like Ohio, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia, already roll back their excessive drug-sentencing policies. So it seems to be the one area today that folks are able to get together on in Washington.”

Click here to listen to the full NPR segment.

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Levin & Reddy: Conservatives Welcome Eric Holder to the Criminal-Justice-Reform Bandwagon

In this National Review piece, Marc Levin and Vikrant Reddy state: “Since 2010, conservative legislatures in Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota have passed major criminal-justice-reform packages. In 2007, Texas passed a reform package that avoided nearly $2 billion in prison construction costs by dedicating a far smaller amount to drug courts, electronic monitoring, and improved parole and probation monitoring of non-violent offenders. Six years later, Texas’s crime rate had reached its lowest point since 1968, and the legislature had authorized three prison closures.”

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David Keene op-ed in Salem Statesman-Journal

In an op-ed published in today’s Statesman JournalRight 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.

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Free Beacon: Taking On Crime

Excerpt from The Washington Free Beacon, originally published April 23, 2013 by Andrew Evans

Texas faced a choice in 2007: spend billions on new prisons to house its convicts or find creative ways to deal with criminals in the state.

State leaders chose the second option, and Texas’ reforms, which have been championed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, have become the model for a conservative movement to reform the criminal justice system.

The Texas foundation started the “Right on Crime” project in 2010; its “statement of principles” has attracted support from conservative public policy heads like Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Grover Norquist.

“It’s one of the more exciting things I’ve worked on,” Norquist said.  Click here to read more.

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Two Smart on Crime States Post Results

Taxpayers in Pennsylvania are footing the bill for 454 fewer inmates this month than they were a year ago, while South Carolina’s citizens are paying for 2,700 fewer inmates.

Why? Pennsylvania created a more effective parole and processing system, while recent legislative alterations to drug and low-level crimes will further the prison population drop.

In South Carolina, the Legislature and Governor three years ago prioritized sending violent offenders to prison for a longer time, while providing for alternative sentences for nonviolent offenders, and created a more effective probation supervision system. The prison population drop resulted in two prison closures and $175 million in avoided prison construction costs.

Both states came to the realization that one-size-fits-all prison policies are expensive, and aren’t actually the best way to protect the public safety. Instead, prioritizing prison beds for violent offenders while doing more to get non-violent and low-risk offenders back on the right path can save millions and do far more to keep citizens safe.

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Zero-Tolerance, Zero Sense?

The good intentions of bolstering school safety that created the zero-tolerance system of automatic suspensions and expulsions for certain behavior are increasingly evaporating across the United States.

The latest reason why? A kindergartner in Pennsylvania was suspended for 10 days (later reduced to two days), required to undergo a psychological examination, and left with a permanent entry on her record.

Her troublesome behavior? School officials say that the kindergartner made a terroristic threat.

That threat? The girl’s suggestion that she and a friend play with her toy bubble gun after school.

To be clear, her “toy bubble gun” is a pink device that blows bubbles into the air.

School officials haven’t yet commented on the five-year-old’s case.

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