The conservative approach to criminal justice:
fighting crime, supporting victims, and protecting taxpayers.

Jerry Madden

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Right on Crime

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Friday, August 15, 2014

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Jerry Madden: Conservative Principles & Victories in Criminal Justice Reform

| August 15, 2014

At the 2014 RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas, Right on Crime Senior Policy Analyst Vikrant Reddy spoke with Former Texas House Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden about his involvement in criminal justice reform in Texas and about his subsequent national work with the Right on Crime campaign.

Wrapping up the event, RedState Editor Erickson gave Right on Crime a ringing endorsement. Watch that video here. The complete event transcript is below.


VIKRANT REDDY: Thank you all for joining us today. We’re going to have a luncheon panel discussion about conservative criminal justice reform. And my name is Vikrant Reddy. I’m a senior policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which is a think tank located down in Austin. I am really excited to be here today. I want to extend a personal thank you to Eric Erickson [PH] for holding this event in Fort Worth. This is my hometown, this is where I grew up. It’s really neat to see an event like this hosted here in Fort Worth. And I’m joined here today by former state representative Jerry Madden. Jerry, why don’t you introduce yourself?

JERRY MADDEN: And I’m Jerry Madden. I was born in Iowa. Have a daughter actually who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, right now. But I served – graduated from the United State Military Academy in West Point. Served in Vietnam. Spent – [APPLAUSE] spent a year, spent a lot of years as an engineer. That’s my background, is engineering. Was elected in 1993 to the Texas legislature and served twenty years. During that time, of course, eight of those years I was on the corrections committee, serving as the chairman of corrections. And since that time, I’ve joined the Red State crime effort as their senior fellow. I do a lot of speaking around the country, talking to them about the criminal justice reform that we have done in Texas.

VIKRANT REDDY: All right. Well, let’s just have a conversation. This is just going to be a dialogue between the two of us. But we’re not the first ones to talk about criminal justice at Red State. Yesterday, in this room, a lot of people saw that Governor Perry was standing up on this stage and he was talking about Texas’s great success in criminal justice reform. He mentioned that this state has the lowest crime rate it’s had since 1968. He mentioned that the state has actually been closing down prisons rather than opening them up. And then he pointed at you, you were sitting at that table, and he said, isn’t that right, Jerry? Why did he point at you? What did you do?

JERRY MADDEN: Well, at the time I was chairman of corrections. I was – I’m not a lawyer. I have never been involved in criminal justice things in the past and I’d never been on a corrections committee and in January of 2005, our very conservative speaker, Tom Craddick [PH] calls me into his office and he says, Jerry, you’re going to be chairman of corrections. And of course, you do what you always do to the speaker, you say, well, thank you Mr. Speaker. And I really appreciate this opportunity [UNCLEAR] Oh, god, why me? What did I do to deserve this? But I then asked what was the second most important question that I’ve ever asked in my life. I said, Mr. Speaker, what do you want me to do? And he gave me the eight words that changed my life. He said, don’t build new prisons. They cost too much. Now that’s a conservative message. What does it mean? Well, I didn’t know at the time. So I said, well, I better start figuring it out. How much – how many people do we have in the state of Texas? Well, we had a hundred and fifty thousand – and, by the way, when I ask a question to you guys, if you want to answer, the answer is probably going to be a lot – how many prisoners do we have? A lot. How many people were on probation in the state of Texas?

CROWD: A lot.

JERRY MADDEN: There you go. How many people were on parole?

CROWD: A lot.

JERRY MADDEN: A lot. We had some four hundred thousand people that are on probation in the state of Texas. A hundred and seventy thousand of those are on felony probation. That means that they did a felony, but the judge decided that instead of sending them to prison, they were going to give them another opportunity within their community. We have seventy-eight thousand, roughly, people that were on parole. We have over six hundred and fifty thousand people that were incarcerated by the state. That didn’t even include county jails or any of the federal facilities when you’re talking about immigration or anything like that, didn’t count any of those either. It was six hundred and fifty thousand people. But what do you do with that? So my speaker has told me don’t build new prisons and you look at the forecast at that time and we’re all going to be – gee, there’s going to be a lot more people coming to prison. A lot more. How many?

CROWD: A lot.

JERRY MADDEN: A lot. They said at the time it was going to be about fifteen thousand. We got a forecast in January, which is in 2007 that said it was going to be seventeen thousand seven hundred more people coming to prisons. Well, in the legislature, we had to deal with the thing that we had, the William Wayne justice [PH] had told us not to overcrowd prisons. We had been under federal control, judicial control over our prisons for quite some time and we didn’t want to go there. We had just gotten out from under that. So the choice was not for these seventeen thousand plus people coming in to stick them back in, you know, jam them more into these prisons. Just couldn’t do that. So, you know, here’s a Texan. Here’s a conservative thinking, well, what do I do? Cause I’ve been told, don’t build any more of those things. I can’t build any more of those building blocks called prisons. I can’t, you know, I can’t expand them. What can I do? And you really had only two choices. You had, open the door and let them out. Or you had a way to figure out slowing them down coming in. Well, which one of those do you think is not going to work in Texas? Open the door and let them out. That was not a conservative approach to doing criminal justice. So we started looking at, well, how do you – how do they get in prisons? How do people get there? And we had a lot of good people that came in and told us some great ideas, but we found out that there was quite a few thousand we got there because of what they called technical ramification of probation. That means that they didn’t show up or they were, you know, high on drugs when they showed up or they got the parole, the probation officer mad at them for a lot of reasons. There were technical ramifications with thirteen thousand of them. Now that doesn’t mean they’re all good guys. But that was not additional crimes. That was not a new crime that sent them in, that was just – they didn’t show up for what they were supposed to be doing or they didn’t, you know, do what the probation department said what they were supposed to do. So we started looking at probation. And I went across – I tried to figure out, well, who in the legislature knew anything about this. And the answer was – no, it’s not a lot [LAUGHTER] it’s a few. A very few knew anything about it. That was not especially – if you notice, well, probably nobody other than Governor Perry, who’s come up here and talked about criminal justice stuff. It was not, you know, something that legislators loved. It was not their favorite subject. It was one of those things they didn’t demand that they be on that committee. So, but it’s important. Why is it important? Because it’s the third largest part of our budget. Third largest. After welfare and public education, it’s the third largest part of our budget. And I subsequently found out, it’s probably the third largest part of almost every state budget out there. It’s ahead of transportation, you know, it’s ahead of a lot of things. And it’s ahead of higher education in the way of spending. We spend a lot of money on it. So I said, well, who else knows about it? And I found out from my senate colleagues that there was a modern Democrat – I won’t call him a liberal, I call him a liberal in a lot of places, he really isn’t. He’s a modern Democrat. Which is just about as bad. But [LAUGHTER] but I found a friend over there who knew something about it and his name was John Whitmire and when we got together and started talking about, well, what do we do to meet my mission that I had – this West Pointer has a mission now – it’s not to build new prisons, how do we do that? And he actually had a lot of ideas that we started to look at. All right? And by the way, he passed something this week in the Texas senate, and sent it over to our Texas house and I told him right off the bat that some of those things weren’t going to work and we changed them and modified them and we did that on probation the first year that we were there, cause the probation people came to us with some wonderful ideas. Good stuff like specialty courts and doing additional money for probation. Surprisingly any agency comes to you and –

VIKRANT REDDY: What is the specialty court? You just use that phrase –

JERRY MADDEN: The specialty courts usually are those that deal with special issues. Maybe drug courts, we have a prostitution court in Dallas, we have mental health courts in the state, we have veterans courts in the state. And as they keep dreaming, they’ll probably dream up some more, but that’s the main ones. But we have a lot of drug courts. Cause we have a lot of people who are in a criminal justice system because of drugs. So that’s, you know, that started. We started looking at that and the governor vetoed that bill. Governor Perry vetoed the bill. And as I tell everybody, it was the best thing that could happen to us. Because we started then looking at the whole system that we had in the criminal justice and corrections – particularly corrections system, we didn’t really look that much at the criminal justice side of it, we looked at the corrections side of it. And said, well, where do we break this cycle so that I can do something that’s I’m slowing them down without endangering public safety. Cause that was number one on our agenda was we’re not going to endanger public safety in anything we do, we’re going to keep public safety. How do we do that? We figured out that there are two types of people in prison. There were the ones we were afraid of and the ones we were mad at. All right? And there’s about – of that hundred and fifty thousand people we had in the Texas prisons, probably seventy to ninety-five thousand of those were those we would be, quote, afraid of. And fifty, sixty thousand of them were the ones you’d call mad at. They’re the ones that are stupid. That do really dumb things. They’re the ones that use drugs or had, you know, certain drugs on them that, you know, they’re just got themselves involved in stuff, you know, they did dumb decisions in their life. And so we did that. As you look at the probation side, the ones on probation, there’s a lot more of the stupid and dumb and they don’t put people that we’re really afraid of very often on probation. And the ones that are on parole, those are the ones who are nearing the end of their sentence and at least the state parole board had thought that they’re – at least should be eligible for release and be watched. So we had those kinds of people. We started to get into, well, where do we break the cycle? And we decided somewhere along the line, we put together – I had think tanks coming in that started talking to us in Texas –

VIKRANT REDDY: Like the Texas Public Policy –

JERRY MADDEN: The Texas Public Policy Foundation. Who I was just going to lead to since one of your lovely leaders is out here.

VIKRANT REDDY: Yes, she is.

JERRY MADDEN: And we – they started coming in with this young man named Mark Levin. Who was there. Who was their only criminal justice guy at the time. Right? And he comes in and had a bunch of ideas. And we had a more liberal think tank. But what I found out was when they started talking, if you threw out the extremes, there was eighty percent of the stuff they were saying was the same. It was identical. It was, do this. This is smart. So we started looking at, well, can we do this? Smart things that will in fact be well received by conservatives, liberals, libertarians, you know, moderates, whatever it would be. That would be well received by different groups. And we decided that, yeah, they would. So we put them in the room, working on this probation bill that the governor had vetoed. It had ideas in it that were good. It had specialty courts in it. It had additional funding ideas for probation departments. It had, you know, shortening some times for some people on probation who had never done anything wrong on probation and we were looking at it and monitoring them. We had technology, things that we were dealing with. We had some good ideas in it. So we put them doing that. I had some other long time staffers who had been around, both conservatives and, you know, liberals and moderate staffers who knew at least the programs we had. And one of the things that I’m about is saying I want a program that works. Forget this funding, you know, things that don’t work. We do too much of that. You know? All right? But we wanted safety out there, programs that are working that reduce recidivism so people don’t come back to prison. Or keep people from coming to prisons. But we don’t fund them. All right? By the way, how much does it cost to fund a person in prison every day?

CROWD: A lot.

JERRY MADDEN: A lot. There you go. How about fifty bucks a day?


JERRY MADDEN: That’s what we spent – and by the way, we’re cheap. There are a lot of states that spend a lot more than we do. All right, we’re cheap. Twenty thousand dollars a year for every person you send to prison in the state of Texas. All right? And you had those that we’re afraid, yeah, I’ll spend that twenty thousand dollars in a year. Any day. For the rapists and the murderers, armed robbers, and those. But, you know, for somebody who had a small amount of drug or did some other third time DWI, for example, I hate DWI guys cause they’re random killers. Except if you break their habit and they’re no longer drinking, then I’m not afraid of them. Okay? I’m afraid of drunk drivers who are driving on the highways cause they’re random killers. But if somebody’s not drinking and has been off it for years, okay, they may be even sitting in this room today. They may be people who have had that problem in their life or had drug problems in their life and how do you allow it so that they can in fact get what you would, as Christians, call redemption? How can you get forgiveness for something that – I mean, how many of us would like to be known for the worst thing we ever did in our life? I don’t think the answer’s a lot. I think there’s a lot – a very few of us would like to be known for the worst things we’ve ever done. But a lot of the people, that’s what happened to them. The worst thing they ever did got them caught, got them sent to our prison system. So that got it started and in 2007, when we started the big work, we had this forecast for seventeen thousand seven hundred more prisoners. We had by that time developed alternatives that said, if you treat drug addicts and if you provide intermediate sanctions for parole and probation officers and if you expand the use of specialty courts and if you treat the mentally ill and give them treatment early in their system, even when they come into the corrections system in the counties, if you give them money so that they will treat them and it doesn’t get worse, that that works. That it does work. That the numbers clearly indicated – cause we went back and we started using research based, data driven approaches, numbers to this engineer that said, all right, this is going to work. All right? So we did that in 2007, we came up with this – the proposal that they had was for seventeen thousand seven hundred people [UNCLEAR] Whitmire walked in to Governor Perry’s office at the start of that session and we told him what we had. And to Governor Perry’s credit, he said, go ahead. We’ll look at what you’ve got because our projection said if we do what we’re looking to do we will not have seventeen thousand seven hundred more prisoners show up in Texas. We will have a steady, maybe even a lowering prison population. And we would not make it any less safe, cause we’re keeping the bad guys. We’re just making sure that we treat drug addicts so that maybe they’re not – no longer going to be a drug addict. If you’re going to treat the probability that they stop using drugs or that they stop using alcohol or that they stay on their medicines if they’re a mental health person, that those things do actually work, that the numbers clearly indicate that that could work. We trusted it. And put those into the legislature. And he said, all right, you got a chance. If you bungle it, we’ll be back next time, next session, and then we’ll fix you up and fix what you did. But we’re going to give you this shot. So we went and did those things in the budget.

VIKRANT REDDY: What were the results?

JERRY MADDEN: The great thing is the results. As Governor Perry pointed out, our crime rate has continued to drop. Dropped dramatically. More dramatically than most states in what we’ve done. And that’s good, guys. We’re safer – it’s not that you’re going to be totally safe. We lose liberty when you make everybody totally safe. You can’t do that. But you can make everybody safer. We’re safer. What has happened to the number of prisoners? We had to build six thousand prisons – when we built the intermediate sanctions and the substance abuse treatment, we put in six thousand new beds in the Texas prison system. I violated the charge that my speaker gave me of don’t build new prisons. We put out six thousand new beds for short term utilization cause our district attorneys and our prosecutors and our defense attorneys had come to us and said, you know, we got a lot of people that need treatment. We really do. And that they should get it. But what’s happening in our system up until then was, you know, they’d wait six or eight months before they got there and they’re sitting in jail and, you know, that didn’t work. So we made it so that that those things were available to them on a short term basis. And what’s happened in that prison population is the total prison population that we had, we are now at least three thousand, almost four thousand people less than what we had before. And as Governor Perry pointed out, we closed three prisons. Now how many prisons do we have?

CROWD: A lot.

JERRY MADDEN: A lot. A lot. We have a hundred and eleven at the time that we started. We’re down to a hundred and eight. I will project that the legislature will be able to close at least one more of those when the next legislative session comes around. That still leaves us a lot, guys. But there were people on parole that – the parole revocations, when we started in this in 2005, there were twenty-two thousand people that were looked at by the parole board and eleven thousand of those who got paroled came back to prison. Eleven thousand of them. Fifty percent of the parolees were being revoked. This last year, the parole board had taken a percentage of parolees, which was at twenty-four percent, and has gone up to nearly thirty-six percent of the parole requests that they have. Now that doesn’t mean that they’re letting them all out by any means. That means that there’s seventy-four – sixty-four percent that aren’t getting out. All right? But thirty-six percent is what they’ve gone up to. And the revocations that we had last year were under six thousand. We’re sending out twenty-eight thousand, six thousand coming back. Versus twenty-two and eleven when we started this. The parole revocation rate is just down tremendously. We’re getting the equivalent of these two prisons not coming back each year – two prison people each year. From parolees not coming back. Revocation – on the probation side, we have fewer people on probation now than we had in 2007. They’re getting better treatment. Perfect? No, there’s no such thing as a perfect system. That’s out there. But we did those things that have reduced the number of revocations and we also touched juvenile justice at the same time. Cause we had a little bit of a problem. Anybody thinks that you’re going to make somebody that you send to a juvenile state prison that gets raped by the warden, you think that that person’s going to come out a better person?


JERRY MADDEN: No. No. We didn’t either. That’s what we had going on in our juvenile system. We totally – under the governor’s leadership, we totally reworked the Texas youth commission. Totally changed what they were doing. Sad. You know, they were taking kids who had done graffiti work or had small amounts of drugs, misdemeanors, and they were sending them on to the Texas youth commission to lock them up so that they can send them out to places where they get raped by the warden. We didn’t think that was a good idea. We took out all the misdemeanors and sent them to the county. You keep your people in your community that they are there for these lower level offences. We’ll take the bad guys. We’ll take the rapists and, you know, the sex offenders and the murderers and we still got some of them. But we took the prison, the juvenile population from forty-six hundred down to last month it was twelve hundred kids. That we had locked up. [APPLAUSE] Twelve hundred. Okay? That’s what we did. And we took and closed six juvenile facilities. And we saved over a hundred million dollars a year to the state taxpayers by doing that. That’s the kind of stuff that we learned at that time in Texas we could do. Now I’d be interested in that question – but we did and the results are just absolutely beyond our wildest expectations.

VIKRANT REDDY: Well, let’s take a step back. You talk about these amazing policies, but good policies have to be rooted in fundamental principles. So what conservative, limited government principles were involved in all of this work?

JERRY MADDEN: Well, we went and looked specifically at – obviously, one of the things, when the speaker looked at me, the prison thing, don’t build new prisons thing, it costs too much, that’s a conservative principle of government. What we did is we put the correctional system under the same scrutiny as we put – as we, as conservatives, would put every other system under. You know, we look at education, we should do things, a lot of things in education that we haven’t done. That our scrutiny has led us to the point where we haven’t finished those. We looked at things in transportation that we want, we want effective efficient things that are done right and done that are actually principles that our government should do. I think there’s no one in this audience that wouldn’t say that housing dangerous criminals is an official function of government. We have to do that. So we wanted to make sure that we had them in there. But at another time, we wanted to look at that population and say, is there a difference that can be made with some of the others? So that they in fact, will in fact become not tax burdens on you at twenty thousand dollars a year, but working taxpayers coming back into their community. What happens when we take a father out of a family and send him to jail, okay? Let’s not say what he did. It doesn’t matter there. What we automatically do, probably to that family, is put them in poverty. And guess what that puts you in? It puts you into your poverty systems with additional expenditures. If we could do things where some of these guys and gals that don’t do things that are to the level of things that we say we’re afraid of, we’re just mad at them, you did something really stupid, okay, that in effect, if we can change them and keep them in the community as taxpayers, as those who will in fact work in their community and be good parents to their family – I mean, how many broken families do we have, and we break them in some cases by sending them, you know, into the criminal justice system, where, you know, it’s just spending money that we shouldn’t be doing, so it’s basically a core set of conservative principles that deal with liberty and also deal with expenditures and deal with how we handle the budget, how we should – how we should run a government.

VIKRANT REDDY: Sure, well, I think the point you make about family breakdowns and breakdowns in neighborhoods is real important. The fiscal case is kind of obvious. They cost so much money. But, you know, groups like Prison Fellowship and Chuck Coulson [PH] they’ve been so prescient about explaining how communities and families just deteriorate when you put people in prison. And some people belong there, you know, we both know that. But when you’ve got low level, non-violent offenders who are being locked up for years and years and years, you’ve just sent that family on an awful track.

JERRY MADDEN: You have definitely done that.

VIKRANT REDDY: There’s no doubt.

JERRY MADDEN: But we got – what’s happened since that time, I think it’s important we point out, is that a major step that happened off of what we did is that the Texas Public Policy Foundation started looking at, well, what we’ve done and they were getting calls from all over the country saying, well, Texas did these things and you’re talking about all these things that Texas did, what else can you do? What different things can we do? And that’s what’s led to this movement which we now call Right On Crime. And sending it up so that in fact we’re going national and telling all of the states and the federal government what we did in Texas and how they can become involved and how they can in fact do the same things. We put out a statement of principles.

VIKRANT REDDY: It’s in fact in everybody’s packet. They can find it or –

JERRY MADDEN: And if you’ll notice on there, we have signatories. People who agree with what we said in that, our principles, the major four in dealing with how do we deal with victims of crime and making sure we – why, the utilization of our money and doing smart public policy and, you know, you can keep going with me on [UNCLEAR] if you want to. But basically a set of principles. I think if you all read them, you’d say amen to almost all of that. If you don’t say amen to a hundred percent, you’ll do ninety. And when I was a legislator, I always took ninety percent, that’d have been fine. That you’d be, you’d be agreeing with us. So these are smart things to do. We as conservatives ought to be doing this. Well, who do we have as signatures? You want a list of a few of them? Well –

VIKRANT REDDY: We’ve got Newt Gingrich. We’ve got Grover Norquist. We’ve got Ed Meese. J. C. Watts. We have – I mean, these are –

JERRY MADDEN: Erick Erickson.

VIKRANT REDDY: Erick Erickson, of course, is one of our most recent ones. Yeah. Right here at Red State.

JERRY MADDEN: How about Ken Cucinelli?

VIKRANT REDDY: Ken Cucinelli, who spoke yesterday, is a signatory to the principles. These are people that no human being can possibly call soft on crime. That’s just insane to call Ed Meese soft on crime, for goodness’ sake.

JERRY MADDEN: I don’t think you can call Ken Cucinelli soft on crime.

VIKRANT REDDY: No, I don’t think anybody would say that about Ken Cucinelli. There’s no doubt.

JERRY MADDEN: It’s not a thing that says soft. It’s says smart. The utilization of our ideas and our funds in a smart way and saying that same thing to other state legislators. Cause we’ve been going around to talk around, the state of Vermont said, well, just show us your travel credentials from the last year or so as to where we’ve been and where we’ve done stuff. But I think we ought to say that there are states who have done similar things to what we did in Texas. One of those is Georgia. Georgia passed major criminal justice reform in their system. [APPLAUSE] Ah, when I mention a state, stand up. Cause Georgia did it. Jay Neil [PH] was a great friend of mine and a legislator who did that and we’ve got some great senators who’ve also worked on that, but they’ve got – I think they’ve had seven different bills in adult and juvenile corrections. You know what, guys? In all but one of those bills, they passed the legislature to do major reform in their system unanimously. How many of you think that there are unanimous votes on anything in state legislatures? Well, it might be to adjourn or something like that. But [LAUGHTER] that’s about where you get unanimity from. They’ve done that. Alaska, I know there’s nobody here from Alaska, right? All right, good. Alaska just passed major reform this last year. That they did, and they did it unanimously in their legislature. In fact, on the house floor, they had representatives fighting for who would be the author of the bill. Okay? What other states have done stuff? Well, you’ve heard from the governor of South Carolina. South Carolina is a major leader in what we’ve done in criminal justice reforms in states. North Carolina is another. In North Carolina, when we started out dealing with a democratic legislator who was the starting point with their reform. And somewhere along the line and about a year later, the legislature changed hands from democratic to Republican hands. And yet we continued that same approach but with a different sponsor for the bill, a very conservative Republican friend of mine, who also passed a major legislation in North Carolina. With a substantial majority. I don’t think he got a complete unanimous vote. But he got very close. We’ve had other states that have done so. Just recently Mississippi passed major criminal justice reform with the help of their governor and with a call from Governor Perry to the governor telling him what great work this – these items do in changing your budgets, governor. So you can have more funds available to do something else with, whether that be tax reductions or, you know, transportation or whatever, you know, your colleagues and your friends in the legislature would think to do with the money. But you have more, that you don’t spend it on corrections. Their bill they indicated would save two hundred and seventy some million dollars, I think was the figure, over the next few years. We saved, Texas has saved, in the two years that we did it, was two billion. Figure this, building – building prisons to hold seventeen thousand seven hundred prisoners [APPLAUSE] would have taken at least eight prisons at basically two hundred to two hundred and fifty million dollars each and would have cost forty million dollars a year to run. That’s what it costs in Texas. We kept them from doing that. We saved our taxpayers the largest amount, by any amount of any state. But of course, Texas is the largest and we expect to be number one on just about everything we do and we’re definitely on this, so [APPLAUSE] so we did the work very, very well. But other states have done stuff. Kentucky, Ohio’s done some sweeping reforms. Recently, South Dakota did theirs. There are other states working on it now. Alabama and Nebraska and Utah and Idaho just did theirs –

VIKRANT REDDY: Why don’t I cut you off because there’s something conspicuous about the list of states you’re rattling off there. They are almost to a T red states. Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alaska. And I’m wondering, what is holding back the liberal states? Why can’t California move forward? Why can’t Illinois move forward? Why can’t liberal state leadership –

JERRY MADDEN: Well, liberals have had a problem over the years that they’ve – as you all know – okay, that’s an understatement. But in criminal justice, they’ve had a problem. But they’ve been all about the criminals. And doing stuff for the criminals. That’s where we talked to the change and said, oh, yeah, we’re going to do something with those, but our interest is in public safety and victims of crime and in dealing with specifically changing the attitude and the actions. Not trying to feel sorry or feel bad about it, but feeling, you know, that what we’re doing is smart things that are changing the way they act. And then they have another couple of problems in places like California and Illinois. He knows my Illinois line’s coming. But the California people, they’re all about labour unions. Guys, they have labour unions in California who are really smart, the corrections unions, are really smart. You know what they do? They donate money to both sides or they donate to what they’re pretty sure is going to be the winning candidate. There are conservative, probably friends, probably Tea Party people, who probably in California have received funding from the prison unions. Guys, that’s one of the biggest problems, fortunately in Texas, we have some great workers in the prisons, but we don’t have strong unions that are there. We can do a lot of stuff because of that. [APPLAUSE] And some of the states have to deal with what they have there. The other thing is in Illinois, they have a large population of former governors that are incarcerated in the state. [LAUGHTER] And they have to provide good facilities for their former governors and also they’re a very liberal state that thinks that they can tax all their way out of things. So they’re just about raising taxes. Ours was about how do we smartly use the taxpayer’s money in such a way that we don’t waste it, but that we in fact use it in an intelligent way to smartly do the things on the corrections side and that’s what we did.

VIKRANT REDDY: Well, there’s a question I think hovering over this entire conversation. It’s drugs. What is the difference between drug legalisation and drug decriminalisation and why don’t you explain Right On Crime’s position on those issues?

JERRY MADDEN: Right On Crime has a simple position. We don’t take a position on either decriminalisation and/or legalisation. I personally don’t favor legalisation. And on the decriminalisation side, I’m not for decriminalisation, but I am for looking at smart sentencing. For example, you know, we had stuff we were working on in Louisiana, where on their third time possession of small amounts of marijuana, small amounts, third time, that they could be sent for twenty years to prison. How many of you think we ought to spend four hundred thousand dollars because somebody has a small amount of marijuana? Cause that’s what a twenty year sentence would cost to Texas. And we didn’t think it was smart. But the great thing about Texas is we didn’t touch sentencing. So if somebody says to you, well, this is all about reducing sentences, it’s not. We didn’t change a single sentence, except I did one. In the juvenile bill. I made it a higher crime that if somebody raped a kid in a state facility. Okay. I increased the penalty on that. [APPLAUSE] And you know what? I, you know, it was – it was not ex post facto, so we didn’t get to fire guys and we haven’t had a single one convicted on it since then cause, you know, we changed it and got rid of a lot of those people that were in that system by cutting back certain facilities, we saved a whole lot of money and we have a lot fewer people working in that and a lot – and they’re wonderful people that we have dealing with those in the communities most of the time. Doesn’t mean that they’re all perfect by any means.

VIKRANT REDDY: Sure, sure. Well, when I arrived in Fort Worth a few days ago, the first day of the Red State convention, I noticed that the lead story in the Fort Worth Star Telegram was about this court that they’re developing that’s modeled off the Hope Court [PH] in Hawaii. I think it’s fascinating and would love to hear you talk about the Hope Court model and what Hope is.

JERRY MADDEN: Sure. Hope was the Hawaiian model developed by a gentleman named Judge Stephen Alms. I don’t have any idea – probably in Hawaii I think they’re all Democrats, but I don’t think they elect that position. I don’t know how he got there. But Judge Alms came up with the idea of swift and certain sanctions. Swift and certain – think about that. Think about right now what happens in your community in your state. If somebody gets arrested for a small amount of drugs, okay, or they – and put on probation, and they get a dirty urinalysis, what happens to them? Not much. Not much first time. Probably, I think, probably they get told, stop doing that. Second offence, probably they don’t get anything either. What Judge Alms did is he set up a group that consisted of the prosecutors, the treatment people, the defense counsels, his own staff, and said, if you get a dirty – if you’re sent to my court, if you’re one of my people that had an offence, you did a drug offence, okay, and you’re sent to my court, you’re going to fit into this category. If you violate, something’s going to happen to you immediately. You come in today and you have a dirty urinalysis, you’re going to jail today. Tonight. Forget your plans for tonight. You’re going to spend twenty-four hours in jail. Okay? You do it a second time, guys, you’re going to be there a week. You do it a third time, you’ll be there a month. What’s happened with Judge Alms’ court? He has drug offenders, they’re almost all drug offences that he has, fifty percent of them – he has a pretty good sized group, by the way this time – fifty percent of them don’t ever violate one time. They don’t ever miss an appointment. They don’t have a dirty urinalysis. They don’t do any other violations. They don’t do another crime. They’re clean. Fifty percent of them. And these are druggies. All right? Of those that get the first time, he whacks them the first time. You walk in, if a crime – been doing something he shouldn’t have been doing and I whack him behind bars for twenty-four hours or overnight. He can’t go home. You know how many of them violate the second time? Only fifty percent of those that did it the first time. He’s down to twenty-five percent of those who violated more than once. Of those that violate the second time, twenty-five percent – or fifty percent of them don’t violate the third. And he drives it – that fifty percent thing down to about one and a half, one and a quarter, two percent, somewhere in that range, of people who are the habitual addicts. The rest of them, he breaks. He breaks their habit. That’s what you really want to do, okay, is you want to break the habit. And so that’s how the Hope Court works that way, they’ve expanded now so that they’re doing similar courts around the nation like here in Fort Worth.

VIKRANT REDDY: What’s noticeable to me that in everything you’ve been saying is that in my mind, this sounds tough on crime. You know, I think if you take somebody and say, go sit in this box and watch TV and hang out, that’s not really tough on crime. We were led for decades to think that’s tough. What’s tough is telling people you’re getting locked up immediately. If you have a drug problem, you’re getting treatment. If you have victims, you’re paying restitution to them. You’re going to earn for your family. That is tough on crime to me.

JERRY MADDEN: Well, and we also found people who come into the system who said, send me to jail. I want to spend my time – I don’t want to go through probation, I don’t want to go through any of these treatment programs, I don’t want to do that. That’s something we say, guys, we got to stop. We got to say to them, it’s for our benefit as a community. We will be better off if you have a drug treatment program which keeps you from coming back. That’s tough on you but it’s the right thing for us, the community, to have – to cut down crime, cause that’s where we’ve driven it. We’re cutting down on the number of people that are doing additional crimes a second, third and fourth time around.

VIKRANT REDDY: Yeah, Newt Gingrich wrote something once where he said, if the government’s – if fifty percent of the government’s bridges collapsed after they were built, we would say that the government’s bridge building program has failed. Well if fifty percent of the offenders who are being released in certain states are just reoffending, that government program has failed.

JERRY MADDEN: Yeah. That’s absolutely what we’re saying around the country. And we’re saying that to the federal system by the way, too, guys. And they need to hear the same lesson.

VIKRANT REDDY: Sure. Well, you know, the way that the laboratories of democracy are supposed to work is that we should learn from one another. The federal government should be learning from the things we’ve done here in Texas and what happened in Georgia and places like that.

JERRY MADDEN: Well, the good part of it is, if you look up, there are legislators, Mike Leigh is one that has presented ideas, Rand Paul has, John Fornan [PH] has major legislation that are dealing with how we did things in Texas. And specifically trying to put them into the federal law when it deals with programmatic utilisation, with reducing recidivism, with handling the mentally ill, that they’re trying to do the same things too. Cause we spend a lot of time and money on a federal system. They got two hundred and sixteen, two hundred and eighteen thousand prisoners, Texas has a hundred and fifty thousand. We’re the system that’s the closest in size to the federal’s. So we give them a pretty good idea of what they can do if they try. Cause their numbers are – building prisons like they’re going out of style. And they’re continuing to grow a prison population. Whereas we stopped growing it and in fact are reducing it.

VIKRANT REDDY: You know, speaking of these people at the federal level who are doing such great work, I think last week Paul Ryan released this extraordinary anti-poverty plan. Chapter four of that plan is all about criminal justice reform. It’s about reentry. It’s about getting substance abuse treatment for people. It’s really worth reading.

JERRY MADDEN: Yeah. There are many conservative legislators in the house and of course in the senate that are both moving toward that direction. It’s one of those things that they’re – and, by the way, a lot of liberals are people that have signed on with them. There are some, of course, that are trying to do things that they shouldn’t be doing. For example, okay, in the federal system, we should be doing all of these changes the federals are doing by changes in the congress and by passing laws in the congress, not by presidential edict. We shouldn’t be doing that. So the things he’s talking about doing should not be done. We should not change releases and mechanisms of release unless the legislature says to do that. That’s what we told Governor Perry, to do some of those things. And to his credit, he’s done some of those things that we’ve – most of those things, in fact, you got to have good implementation, and to the credit of the state governor of Texas, they did a wonderful job of implementing the programmatic things that we needed.

VIKRANT REDDY: Well, before we go to Q and A, let’s leave everybody with an action item. What can the people in this room do when they leave today to further progress in criminal justice reform.

JERRY MADDEN: Well, I think they should talk to their legislators and tell them to go look at – look at the recommendations that Right On Crime and others, but particularly Right On Crime, have made on things that are smart in looking at things like over-criminalisation and looking at things like sentencing and sentencing changes that might be smart. Look at it. Don’t talk about it. It is now a subject that conservatives can talk about. And intelligently and can talk about it with anybody else that’s out there and in fact they are good ideas that conservatives have on the issue. So I think they ought to go tell their people to start looking particularly at Right On Crime and its great work.

VIKRANT REDDY: Sure. And, you know, I think Grover Norquist always says when he talks about these issues, not only that conservatives can lead, but they have to lead because the liberals have just abandoned all credibility on the issue. The way they’ve talked about it for thirty years, as you pointed out, the way they’ve ignored victims and focused more on offenders has just damaged their credibility deeply. We’re kind of obligated to pick up the issue.

JERRY MADDEN: Yeah. They have had the real problems in the last couple of three years as we moved this issue forward and they’ve been basically in the me too attitude of, well, you know, they will agree with most of what we do and they want to go a lot farther than we want we want to do and we should not go there. But we should continue the smart process of what we’re doing.

VIKRANT REDDY: Right. Well, we can turn to Q and A now. Just about five minutes ago somebody cued me it was question time. So I say we just dig right into it.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. That was very interesting. Given that most of the judges are old men like you and me, I would like your opinion on what – how successful the program of teen courts has been and how widely they are used in Texas and other states.

JERRY MADDEN: They’re used fairly substantially in various areas. You know, how successful, I’ve never looked at – I don’t think I’ve ever seen numbers on teen court, on what recidivism or what numbers come back. I’ve heard good reports about them. I have a JP in Collin County named John Peyton who’s done a remarkably good job with his team for it over the years, but I don’t know. And so that’s a great question we need to find out.

VIKRANT REDDY: Can we take one more question? Okay, great.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m from Midland, Texas. My name’s Cassandra. It is a pleasure to hear about all the work you’ve done. Really exciting. And I think this is how you sell liberty. What you’re doing right now in the courts sounds very exciting. My question is, how much does a generally good and robust economy contribute to a decline in crime?

JERRY MADDEN: It actually didn’t affect us one way or the other. When the economy tanked, we said, boy it’s going to get worse and we’re going to have more, we didn’t. Now, whether it was our programs that were doing it and kept that from happening or whether it was other changes that were out there, the society, I think it’s a combination of all of them. I mean, we’re keeping the really bad guys for a long time. And we should do that. And maybe that’s a play on it. There’s a lot of things going on. I ask the question, what’s causing the crime rate to continue to drop all the time? One of the things you got to answer is there’s technology that’s doing some of that. Better policing, I think, is doing some of that. Keeping people longer, the bad guys, is helping. So all of those added together, but surprisingly, it wasn’t the bad economy that really drove anything that we saw in numbers.

VIKRANT REDDY: Well, I think that’s one area in which liberals were so flawed. The argument was always, well, you know, it’s all poverty, it’s all racism that causes all of these things. So we have to solve those problems before we get to crime. But the thing is, in 2008, the economy collapsed and everybody assumed, well now crime’s going to go up and it didn’t. So I think you can fairly say that conservatives won that argument about what causes crime. At the end of the day, it’s about individuals and choices individuals make.

ERICK ERICKSON: Folks, as they’re leaving the stage, I want to say Red State signed on and I personally signed on to the Right On Crime agenda, having been a lawyer for a number of years and also doing a lot of indigent criminal defense. I was – as one of those hard on crime, lock them all the way people, just how absurd it is that the level of criminalisation, business regulations, and so many things that shouldn’t put people away for years in jail, and, frankly, in a lot of cases, people who very much need help who instead of getting help are being thrown in jail forever, it’s – I encourage you to get involved and understand what Right On Crime is about because, you know, conservatives can take a tough stance on crime, but why are we putting good Americans away and ruining lives for things that you and I, we scratch our head over and say, this is just dumb?

JERRY MADDEN: Our over-criminalisation is important to us, as Eric pointed out. One of the things that’s there is we have both federal and state agencies that create criminal penalties within their rules and within their processes that they have. That needs to be stopped. That is a bad thing to be doing. It should be that the legislature, the congress passes the criminal laws. Not letting them lazily send that on to a state agency who then creates a crime that you may not – you probably won’t even have the slightest idea is on the books.


Former Texas House Committee on Corrections Chairman JERRY MADDEN  is a Senior Fellow at the Right on Crime campaign. Rep. Madden is best known, along with Senator John Whitmire, as the driving force behind the successful and much-copied 2007 Texas criminal justice reforms. (For their work, Governing Magazine named them Public Officials of the Year in 2010.) Madden graduated from West Point with a BS in Engineering, obtained a Master of Science in Management and Administration Sciences from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1979, and has since been honored as one of their distinguished graduates. After being elected to the Texas Legislature in November of 1992, he served ten terms. While there, Rep. Madden was Chairman of the House Committee on Corrections from 2005-2009 and again from 2011-2012. In 2011, the American Legislative Exchange Council honored Rep. Madden as their Legislator of the Year. He chaired ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force from January 2011 through April of 2012, and serves as well on the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit. He and his family have lived in Richardson, Texas since 1971.