Conservative prison reformers acknowledge that locking up and throwing away the key as a solution for career criminals has borne an unintended consequence. It exposes nonviolent, low-risk offenders to bad influences – making them a greater risk to the public once they are released.
“The criminal justice arena is starved for conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering costs,” the group said on its web site.
The group, named Right on Crime, includes presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and tax reformer Grover Norquist.
The organization calls for transparency in governmental operations of prisons, and demand that public safety, personal responsibility, work, restitution, community service, and treatment should be a priority. In addition, victims should be treated with “dignity and respect – with an opportunity to participate, receive restitution, and even be reconciled with offenders.” They would like to see more involvement from the offenders’ family, charities, and faith-based groups.
The group wants the juvenile justice system to employ policies that send a clear message to youngsters at the time of the illegal behavior rather than waiting for violations to pile up and then locking them up. Proven approaches to reduce juvenile crime include teen courts, community service, student behavior contracts, student behavior accounts, peer mediation and keeping juveniles closer to home. Right on Crime advocates for policies that review sentences of juveniles years after imprisonment to see if they are fit to return to society.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry commented, “I believe we can take an approach to crime that is both tough and smart. … [T]here are thousands of non-violent offenders in the system whose future we cannot ignore. Let’s focus more resources on rehabilitating those offenders so we can ultimately spend less money locking them up again.”
“The criminal justice arena is starved for conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders and lowering costs.”
Right on Crime advocates say that if crime reduction rates do not correspond with the amount of money spent in corrections, then a change in policy is needed. Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas were looked at as examples that followed this idea.
Former President George W. Bush is quoted as saying, “We know from long experience that if [former prisoners] can’t find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison. … America is the land of the second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.”