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November 14, 2012

More on the "conservative push for prison reform"

PrisonpopProviding an effective follow-up the great Washington Monthly feature article on the topic (blogged here), Dylan Matthews has this commentary at the Washington Post headlined "The conservative push for prison reform." Here are excerpts:

Traditionally, prison reform has been a liberal issue, associated with civil rights activists troubled by the extreme racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, and with drug decriminalization advocates who emphasize the high cost of drug prohibition. But without much notice, that picture has begun to change. These days, the right is leading the charge to reduce the U.S. prison population.

According to John Hopkins’s David Dagan and Steve Teles, writing in the Washington Monthly, the change is not primarily due to economic constraints. The change started in the early 2000s, with major conservative-led reforms passing in Texas in 2007, when times were flush, and states weren’t facing draconian budget cuts of the kind they’ve been forced to implement recently.

Nor is this a case of corporate cronyism. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for conservative state legislatures and is a newfound supporter of prison reform, does not receive support from any prison privatization companies, and has renounced its previous support for privatization measures.

Instead, the change has come about due to an alliance between libertarians, who are as skeptical of the prison system as they are of all uses of state power, and religious conservatives....

Federally, the two big accomplishments are the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 and the Second Chance Act of 2007, both signed into law by George W. Bush with substantial Republican support in Congress. The former lead to the Obama administration issuing new standards which advocates argue could dramatically reduce sexual assaults in prisons, and the latter provides funding for programs intended to reduce recidivism.

But the biggest changes are coming at the state level. Marc Levin, a fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation who has become many conservative legislators’ point person on prison issues, is a big advocate of expanding probation, house arrest, and parole as alternatives to prison. His group, Right on Crime, has garnered support from the likes of Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush and Ralph Reed. ALEC has abandoned its previous support for mandatory minimum sentences and now offers five model bills designed to reduce prison populations and increase the use of alternative penalties.

Dagan and Teles have the full story, which is worth reading in full.  But the movement, along with budget constraints, contributes to the fact that the U.S. prisoner population has declined for two years in a row, the first such decline since 1972.

November 14, 2012 at 09:21 AM | Permalink


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One has to note the conservatives were all government workers, and therefore false conservatives. None has credibility. If one is a lawyer, his job comes from the criminal and not from the crime victim. The criminal has the full protection and sponsorship of the lawyer profession.

There is no evidence for rehabilitation that does not correlate with aging. Dropping crime rates will rise when not manipulated or outright falsified by Democratic Party operatives in the DOJ.

The sole lawful, mature and effective purpose of the criminal law is incapacitation. That is the only aim that protects future victims.

Real partisans for public safety would support cheap incapacitation in the form of summary executions of all repeat violent offenders. The benefit assumes none from deterrence, only from attrition of the criminal class.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 14, 2012 11:47:50 PM

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