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In State of the State Addresses, Conservative Governors Highlight Criminal Justice Reform

This winter, Governors’ across the country are making their State of the State address, summing up past accomplishments and highlighting the priorities that they hold for their administrations. After the right grabbed election after election, there are many more states turning red. This means great things for criminal justice reform. Conservative governors highlighted the issues involved in the criminal justice system time after time in their speeches.

In South Dakota, Governor Daugaard recognized the importance of common sense reforms in juvenile justice, calling upon the legislature to “join [him] in making the right choice, one that improves [their] juvenile justice system and strengthens [their] families and communities.

Chris Christie took advantage of the opportunity to highlight the compassion that was needed for those suffering in the grip of addictions. He urged mandatory treatment for non-violent drug offenders, claiming, “every life is a individual gift from God and no life is disposable.”

Also advocating for compassion, as well as invoking the principles of the Founding Fathers, Idaho’s Governor Butch Otter expounded upon the need to ensure that all citizens were represented at trial, and that full and fair treatment was acquired under Due Process protections.

Already conservatives have leapt to the forefront to bring these important issues to light. Even in his farewell address, former Governor Rick Perry took the moment to expound on these issues. It is fair to say that there will be much more heard from conservatives on the subject of criminal justice reform in the coming months.


GOVERNOR GARY HERBERT: This is also the year to pass meaningful corrections in criminal justice reform. We have one of the lowest incarceration rates in the country. Unfortunately, it’s still too high. This is about rebuilding lives.

GOVERNOR JACK MARKELL: We know that one of the best ways we can build a safer city and state is to improve the chance that those who were involved with our criminal justice system can get a job when they return to their communities. Ninety-seven percent of the people in our prisons are coming out. That’s why we’ve reduced barriers to rehabilitation and employment.

GOVERNOR STEVE BESHEAR: And in this session, we can expand Kentucky’s workforce by making it easier for two groups to get jobs. Disabled veterans and offenders who have paid their debts to society. An offender re-entry which prohibits public agencies and licensing boards from automatically discriminating against people with criminal records will address one of the leading causes of recidivism. The inability to find gainful employment. Folks, we can’t tell people who have paid their debt to society, oh, just get out here, get a job, and get your lives back in order while at the same time we make it impossible for them to do so.

GOVERNOR RICK SNYDER: Public safety. Two or three years ago, I made the point that we have four of the most violent cities in the United States in the top ten. That’s unacceptable. Have we fully gotten off that list? No. But have we made tremendous progress? In May, I’m going to do a special message on criminal justice. And in October, we have to work on the drug abuse plan and get that in place.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: Treatment is the path to saving lives. And I want to make this very clear. For as long as I am governor of New Jersey, treatment will be mandatory in our system and that system will not yield to the scourge of drugs in our society.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: We must remember when it comes to the disease of addiction, the issue is not helping bad people become good. But sick people become well. Turning to diversion programs hasn’t made us soft on crime. It’s made us smart on crime.

GOVERNOR BUTCH OTTER: The courts have made it clear that our current methods of providing legal counsel for indigent criminal defendants does not pass constitutional muster. This is a priority for our counties and so it must then necessarily be a priority for us. If we value the ideas embodied in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth amendments to the Constitution, then it is undeniably our responsibility to take care and measure on the phrase due process of law as seriously as the framers intended.

GOVERNOR DENNIS DAUGAARD: We have a choice to make. We can continue to place juveniles in expensive residential settings that are less effective in addressing delinquency or we can invest short term in more effective treatment while keeping our youth close to home and driving down that residential population.

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