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

Right on Crime Statement on Law Enforcement and GOP Embrace of Conservative Criminal Justice Reform

| July 19, 2016

As the nation’s leading conservative criminal justice reform organization, Right on Crime wishes to extend its condolences to all those affected by anti-police violence.  Violence against law enforcement officials is never acceptable.  Right on Crime is blessed to have numerous signatories who have served as leaders in prosecuting crimes such as these, as well as staff who have served for decades on the frontlines as police officers directing our new program in law enforcement. At this troubling time, we urge all Americans to respect the rule of law and those whose duty it is to enforce it.

We are pleased that many of our signatories who are participating in the 2016 GOP Convention in their personal capacities successfully worked to improve the Republican platform on criminal justice by adding language that reflects the Right on Crime Statement of Principles. In addition to standing strongly behind law enforcement, the platform endorses state reforms that have expanded the use of alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. It also calls for reining in overcriminalization by reducing the number of crimes and ensuring a culpable mental state (mens rea) is required for conviction.

It should be noted that the term “criminal justice reform” is used by different groups that have a disparate interpretation of that term.  Conservatives support reforms that enhance public safety, prioritize victims and protect taxpayers. With conservative governors leading the way, dozens of states have adopted reforms that ensure we incarcerate those we are afraid of, not those we are simply mad at. In “red states” like Texas and South Carolina that have closed prisons and expanded alternatives like drug courts, crime has gone down more sharply than in the nation as a whole. For example, the Texas crime rate fell 29% from 2005 to 2014 at the same time the incarceration rate dropped 14%.

Indeed, some 30 states have adopted justice reinvestment plans and in states like Oregon and Alaska these packages have included reinvesting savings into stronger law enforcement. These state-based reforms are also making progress in ensuring those with addiction and mental illness are effectively treated rather than simply warehoused, and that when people are released from prison they are less of a threat than when they arrived and are properly supervised.

While Right on Crime is not connected to any political party, we are confident that the changes to strengthen the Republican platform reflect a growing consensus that we must have the right people in prison and the right interventions both behind bars and upon reentry so that more public safety is delivered for every tax dollar spent.

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MARC A. LEVIN is Right on Crime’s Policy Director, as well as the Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.  Based in Austin, Texas, Levin is an attorney and an accomplished author on legal and public policy issues.  Levin served as a law clerk to Judge Will Garwood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Staff Attorney at the Texas Supreme Court.  In 1999, he graduated with honors from the University of Texas with a B.A. in Plan II Honors and Government.  In 2002, Levin received his J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law.  Levin’s articles on law and public policy have been featured in national and international media outlets that regularly turn to him for conservative analysis of states’ criminal justice challenges.

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