Republican National Convention Calls for Criminal Justice Reform

By Tommy Bryant        

Criminal justice reform was the subject on the second day of the Republican National Convention (RNC). It featured a three-governor forum sponsored by the U.S. Justice Action Network and the GOPAC Education Fund.

These three governors are “leading their states to reform a criminal justice system rife with overly strict sentencing laws and high rates of incarceration and recidivism,” reports M. G. Oprea in the The Federalist on July 7.

The event focused on the need to give those who were formerly imprisoned a chance for redemption and to restore their dignity, says Oprea.

One of the major problems with incarcerated people who commit nonviolent crimes is that they often come out of prison in worse shape and are more likely to engage in criminal activity, reports Oprea.

Gov. Mathew Bevin of Kentucky said that dehumanization can occur when you remove someone’s dignity. “This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue. Dignity transcends party.”

Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma has signed a law that returns driver licenses to low-risk formerly incarcerated. She also signed an order to ban the box that asks if the applicant for state employment has a criminal past. 

Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia said, “One of the main purposes of government is to keep people safe.” He believes education reform is, “the ultimate criminal justice reform,” and that dropping out of high school is directly related to recidivism.

Money can also be a powerful tool to convince people of the need for justice reform, notes Oprea. Some alternative programs cost as little as $5,000 per person a year compared to an average of $19,000 to incarcerate them.

Although many conservative states are leading justice reform, conservatives and Republicans on the street don’t necessarily support it or even have it on their radar, says Oprea. They continue to believe in the 1980s and 1990s get-tough-on-crime era policies.

Reform efforts by Republicans aren’t necessarily on the radar of younger, left-leaning Democrats. One such person, RNC protester Melissa Hill of Minneapolis, said that she believes Democratic-controlled city governments and state legislatures have also neglected criminal justice reform.

Bevin suggested, “Criminal justice reform and the safety of communities go hand in hand. United we stand. Divided we fall. If ever there is an issue that embodies that…it is this issue.”

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