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January 7, 2011

Newt Gingrich says "criminal justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it"

The quoted phrase in the title of this post comes directly from this potent Washington Post op-ed authored by Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan, which is headlined "Prison reform: A smart way for states to save money and lives."  Here are excerpts:

With nearly all 50 states facing budget deficits, it's time to end business as usual in state capitols and for legislators to think and act with courage and creativity.

We urge conservative legislators to lead the way in addressing an issue often considered off-limits to reform: prisons. Several states have recently shown that they can save on costs without compromising public safety by intelligently reducing their prison populations.

We joined with other conservative leaders last month to announce the Right on Crime Campaign, a national movement urging states to make sensible and proven reforms to our criminal justice system — policies that will cut prison costs while keeping the public safe....  The Right on Crime Campaign represents a seismic shift in the legislative landscape.  And it opens the way for a common-sense left-right agreement on an issue that has kept the parties apart for decades.

There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential.  We spent $68 billion in 2010 on corrections — 300 percent more than 25 years ago.  The prison population is growing 13 times faster than the general population.  These facts should trouble every American.

Our prisons might be worth the current cost if the recidivism rate were not so high, but, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, half of the prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison within three years.  If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane, effective alternatives, it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.

We can no longer afford business as usual with prisons.  The criminal justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it....

Some people attribute the nation's recent drop in crime to more people being locked up. But the facts show otherwise.  While crime fell in nearly every state over the past seven years, some of those with the largest reductions in crime have also lowered their prison population.  Compare Florida and New York.  Over the past seven years, Florida's incarceration rate has increased 16 percent, while New York's decreased 16 percent.  Yet the crime rate in New York has fallen twice as much as Florida's.  Put another way, although New York spent less on its prisons, it delivered better public safety.

Americans need to know that we can reform our prison systems to cost less and keep the public safe. We hope conservative leaders across the country will join with us in getting it right on crime.

People long involved in sentencing law and policy reform efforts should not be too surprised to see Pat Nolan's name on a op-ed of this nature. But Newt Gingrich until recently has never been known to speak out on these issues and he remains a leading voice for many on the right. Moreover, Gingrich has seriously hinted that he may run for president in 2012 (which I am now rooting for because it will bring added attention to these important issues). Gingrich's loud voice in this arena, especially given that he is saying now exactly what folks at FAMM and The Sentencing Project and other left-leaning groups have been saying for some time, may indeed help engineer a "seismic shift in the legislative landscape."

I wonder what Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime, terrorism, and homeland security, thinks about this op-ed.  And what might the new head of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Lamar Smith, who was the only loud voice this summer complaining about Congress's decision to reduce crack sentencing terms, have to say in reponse.  Interesting times.

Some recent and older related posts on the modern politics of sentencing issues:

January 7, 2011 at 05:58 PM | Permalink


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Finally! For months, I've been telling clients in prison who received enormously long sentences for nonviolent offenses related to drug addiction that maybe the Republican electoral gains will result in some sort of a "Nixon to China" effect. Republicans took control of both houses of the NC legislature and now they have to grapple with a 3.7 billion dollar budget shortfall. I'm on the local school board and we have been talking about the impending "budget cliff." The conservatives are immune from soft on crime criticism and maybe now there will be some real sentencing reform.


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Jan 8, 2011 7:32:45 AM

Has anybody in this ,USA, government ever heard of the researches of Nils Christi? One wonders. Solutions have been found - just not utilized in 'America'.

Posted by: Tim Rudisill | Jan 8, 2011 8:05:43 AM

so, Bill and federalist, where are your suggestions?

Posted by: anon12 | Jan 8, 2011 11:51:01 AM

I know that if I were to move to a Hezbollah area of Lebanon, within a week, I would begin to understand their point of view. Within a month, I could feel some sympathy for their arguments. Within a year, I would become a member. We will always adopt the beliefs of the majority around us. Gingrich has spent a lot of time in Washington. Nothing he says has the slightest validity. First, those plea deals make it impossible to know if the non-violent adjudicated charge is real or is fictional substitute hiding an ultra-violent, career criminal. Say, the 18 year old criminal is in for drug possession and selling. How is it possible to persuade him to learn a trade and obey the law, when his income as a drug dealer had 6 numbers in it, with the full time Roman Orgy lifestyle to match? What does Gingrich have to offer that can beat the full time Roman Orgy?

Again, I demand that all released prisoners be moved to halfway houses on the street where Gingrich lives. If he objects, he should shut up about prison costs, the hypocrite.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 8, 2011 1:27:44 PM

There are serious minds on the conservative side that can be used to change the mind-set on this issue just as some on that side realize changing drug laws can have a conservative result. But, I find it pretty hard to take this guy seriously. I guess you take what you can get.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 9, 2011 12:47:35 PM

Inasmuch as this government and the culture that supports it has become over time a murderous oppressor of people and nations and at the same time continue to engage in high crimes and misdemeanors against all of the world's inhabitants, I cannot in good faith consent to its rule.

Consent of the Governed

At one time in my life when I was younger and more trusting in those leaders who ruled the nation, I consented to the government’s handling of social, political, and economic affairs and my role in such activities. I impliedly accepted the idea that authority vested in the agencies of government was somewhat sanctified in that all of the people must for the benefit of the world and in pursuit of peace recognize law and public policy standards as outlined by all appropriate agencies of government.

Inasmuch as government has now become unduly oppressive, murderous and inhumane (as evidenced in part by an uninterrupted string of local and global atrocities and crimes against humanity over the past century) I can no longer give my consent to be ruled by the illegitimate authority that calls itself the United States of America.
From my personal experience I find that the criminal and civil laws of this nation (and the cultural standards that support them) are impossible to honor in many instances because they are secret in their making, arbitrary in their enforcement and insufferably oppressive in their application. Such obscure laws, standards and secret rules are used by political fiat to imprison and to destroy lives of people in a kind of game where prosecutor, defense attorney, judge and citizenry all conspire to ruin, imprison or kill the individual for alleged offenses that do not approach in severity the crimes and unlawfully brutal tactics used against them by their detractors; neither do the actual offenses alleged against a person generally compare in degree of severity to the crimes committed against him by the accusers. Those government agents (and their paid killers in uniform or in the private sector) who seek to selectively apply their contrived and illegitimate rule of law against unsuspecting citizens now advance against the people with unwarranted malice, tortuous brutality, and advanced cruel weaponry.

No free man who yet has an ounce of will power and self-respect may therefore submit to the completely out of control government of the United States of America. Any judgment or levy against any citizen or resident of the United States by any current officer of the three branches of government, or by any administrative agency thereof, is by definition corrupt, devoid of legitimacy and intolerable to men and women of good conscience because those who (with evil intent, malice aforethought and wickedly selfish heart) wield the bloody ax of law against our people are the real criminals far more dangerous and threatening to humanity than the millions of men and women imprisoned under Nazi like orders of this hideous regime.

In good conscience and by the remaining will power afforded by Providence I do not give my consent to be ruled by the present United States government because it is a global murderous and criminal enterprise bent on world inhumane domination at any cost.

geral sosbee

Posted by: geral | Aug 17, 2011 8:41:28 PM

How do you feel about the felony murder doctrine? I suspect you feel the same as I do with it's unfair, unjust way the doctrine allows many innocent people to be convicted of crimes they did not commit...I would like to be at the forefront of this doctrine being abolished in NC and everyone who has been convicted by means of the felony murder rule be not only freed but have their records eradicated, not to mention monetary awards to help them get back on their feet. Do you think this will ever happen? How can a private citizen like myself do anything to help this cause?...thank you..Roberta...

Posted by: Roberta | Nov 6, 2012 2:16:32 PM

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