For those who remember the get-tough policies that many conservatives embraced in the 1980s and '90s the idea of conservative criminal justice reform meant expanding crime codes, enlarging prison and extending sentences. The get tough approach of the 1980s and 90 has put enormous pressure on state and local budgets.
Now, with most states experiencing significant budget woes, many conservatives have acknowledged that hard-line strategies, while partially contributing to a drop in crime, have also added to fiscal havoc, reports the Los Angles Times.
Corrections is now the second-fastest growing spending category for states, behind Medicaid, costing $50 billion annually and accounting for 1 of every 14 discretionary dollars, according to the Pew Center on the States.
A new conservative advocacy group called Right on Crime, has been endorsed by conservative luminaries such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Education Secretary William J. Bennett, and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Right on Crime is proposing reforms such as those implemented in Texas be replicated by cash strapped states across the country.
According to the Times, serious crime in Texas is on the decline. Between 2007 and 2008, the incarceration rate fell 4.5%, while states on average saw a 0.8% increase. And the state has avoided building 17,000 prison beds it once thought it needed, resulting in a savings of more than $2 billion.
Reform in Texas has been relatively well received among conservatives, in part because of the results, and in part because of a good sales job. Texas is among a number of states that have received guidance from the Pew Center's Public Safety Performance Project, which promises that reforms will be data-driven and not affect public safety.
To read more: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-conservative-crime-20110129,0,627861,full.story