Sunday, August 21, 2011

Conservatives Look to Get 'Soft' on Crime

A sour economy and deep budget deficits have causes many states to rethink the their bulging law and order spending. This has reversed a trend of “tough on crime” policies that lasted for decades and drove the nation’s incarceration rate to the highest — and most costly — level in the developed world, according to the New York Times.

The changes are especially surprising in the GOP states that have been for decades the bastion of "tough" prosecutors, legislator and governors. Those draconian policy makers have now take a new direction.

According to the Times, The movement has attracted the support of several prominent conservatives, including Edwin R. Meese III, the attorney general during the Reagan administration. He is part of a campaign, called “Right on Crime,” which was begun last December to lend weight to what it calls the “conservative case for reform.”

“I’d call it a careful refining of the process,” Mr. Meese said. “Most of us who are involved in this are very much in favor of high incarceration of serious habitual offenders. The whole idea is getting the right people in prison, and for those people for whom there is evidence that chances of recidivism are less, to work with those people.”

Other Republican affiliates of the group include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Grover Norquist, an antitax activist; Asa Hutchinson, a former director of the Drug Enforcement Administration; and William J. Bennett, a former White House “drug czar.”

The movement has seen some reversals. At least three states — Washington, Kansas and Delaware — have cut spending on re-entry programs to help close short-term budget gaps, despite criticism that the cuts could result in higher long-term costs if more parolees returned to prison.

In addition, at least three other states — Illinois, New Jersey and Wisconsin — suspended or revoked programs that allowed well-behaved inmates to earn early parole. Earlier this year, for example, New Jersey repealed such a program after two former inmates who had been released early were charged with murders.

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