When Right On Crime Is What's Left
What will be interesting about this effort is that there are a number of points where east meets west, the left and right find themselves holding hands and singing Kumbaya. And then, there are some places where they don't. From the Statement of Principles:
As members of the nation’s conservative movement, we strongly support constitutionally limited government, transparency, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. We believe public safety is a core responsibility of government because the establishment of a well-functioning criminal justice system enforces order and respect for every person’s right to property and life, and ensures that liberty does not lead to license.
How is it that conservatives can turn a phrase like ensuring "that liberty does not lead to license." Is that a great phrase or what? Liberals never turn cool phrases like that.
Applying the following conservative principles to criminal justice policy is vital to achieving a cost-effective system that protects citizens, restores victims, and reforms wrongdoers.
1. As with any government program, the criminal justice system must be transparent and include performance measures that hold it accountable for its results in protecting the public, lowering crime rates, reducing re-offending, collecting victim restitution and conserving taxpayers’ money.
2. Crime victims, along with the public and taxpayers, are among the key “consumers” of the criminal justice system; the victim’s conception of justice, public safety, and the offender’s risk for future criminal conduct should be prioritized when determining an appropriate punishment.
3. The corrections system should emphasize public safety, personal responsibility, work, restitution, community service, and treatment—both in probation and parole, which supervise most offenders, and in prisons.
4. An ideal criminal justice system works to reform amenable offenders who will return to society through harnessing the power of families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.
5. Because incentives affect human behavior, policies for both offenders and the corrections system must align incentives with our goals of public safety, victim restitution and satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness, thereby moving from a system that grows when it fails to one that rewards results.
6. Criminal law should be reserved for conduct that is either blameworthy or threatens public safety, not wielded to grow government and undermine economic freedom.
The problem is that this isn't a Chinese menu, where you get to pick one from column A and one from column B. There are going to be some posts that will thrill the pants off you, such as this one about how Texas has done things right by legislating sentences of probation for small time drug possessors.
But then there's Newt Gingrich's post about prisoner re-entry in Georgia. I can just see Newt in his bathrobe typing furiously. While the post argues strenuously in favor of supporting successful re-entry to avoid recidivism (good), it goes on to argue for the righteousness of the Prison Fellowship. Yup, that would be Chuck Colson's (of Watergate fame) effort to turn prisoners to Jesus.
For the safety of our communities and the fiscal well-being of the state, Out4Life Georgia is a critical initiative. Every taxpayer in Georgia has a direct stake in achieving a better success rate for prisoner re-entry.
Working together, the faith community, community-based nonprofits, and the state can make sure that offenders get out of prison and stay out — for life.
Faith-based is fine, provided that it happens to be your faith. Newt must be thanking his lucky stars that Chuck didn't go Muslim in prison.
It seems that conservative political, yet quasi-legal, blogs find a huge following, must more so than straight law blogs or liberal-oriented blogs. My guess is that's because conservatives spend so much time at home alone, just so they don't miss an episode of Glenn Beck. Naw, I'm just kidding; don't flame me.
There are a number of areas where the interests of the Right on Crime intersect with the interests of Smart on Crime, not to mention those pesky details about the Constitution. How this plays out has yet to be seen, but I welcome Newt, not to mention former drug czar Bill Bennett to the table. I don't expect that they'll get my complete support, but I similarly don't expect them to lose any sleep over that.
On the other hand, to the extent that we share similar ideas and goals, I'm more than happy to have folks that I tend to otherwise find disagreeable on the team of the righteous. Whatever it takes to make sense of this mess of a system works for me.