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February 6, 2012

Governing magazine discusses new criminal justice perspectives from the right

GOV-february-2012-coverThe February 2012 issue of Governing magazine has a cover story and an additional article focused on the new "smart on crime" approaches being adopted by a number of right-leaning states and politicians.  Here are the (lengthy) titles and subheadings of the pieces, along with links and the openning paragraphs:

How Game Theory is Reinventing Crime Fighting: Elected officials across the nation from both political parties have begun to examine ways to replace a tough corrections policy with a smart one.

Three years ago, a group of conservative legislators from California slipped off to Texas.  Among the purposes of their visit was to learn more about a new approach to controlling crime.  The strategy involved investing in community corrections, not new prisons.  The somewhat surprising thing was that the plan had been developed in Texas, with strong support from conservatives.  Texas, after all, is a state that prides itself on being tough on crime. It executes more inmates than any other state and incarcerates the highest percentage of its population of any big state.

For two decades starting in 1985, Texas had built prisons with gusto, increasing by 300 percent the number of inmate beds.  But in 2007, when Gov. Rick Perry produced a budget that asked the Legislature to appropriate $523 million in additional funding for three new prisons -- with more prisons to follow -- legislators balked.  Instead, lawmakers decided to invest $240 million in diversion and treatment.  By all accounts, this approach has been working.  There have been declines in ongoing crime.  Parole violations have plummeted. Prison overcrowding has eased.

Conservatives Question the War on Drugs: Some surprising political figures like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have started questioning how effective U.S. drug policy is.

Before he became governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie made his name as a prosecutor. That’s one reason why it was such a surprise when he added his voice to the chorus of those who say the war on drugs has failed.

Christie is expanding his state’s drug court program, offering treatment and counseling to more nonviolent offenders, rather than prison sentences.  “I don’t believe that the only weapon we [should] use against the drug problem is incarceration,” he has said.  “I just don’t think it’s worked.”

Christie’s not alone in questioning longstanding drug policies.  Despite strong interdiction and high arrest rates, the availability of drugs never seems to decline.  Last year, an international commission that included figures such as former United Nations chief Kofi Annan and former Secretary of State George Shultz called for legalization and regulation as a way to reduce violence.

February 6, 2012 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

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