The conservative approach to criminal justice:
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Federal Criminal Justice Reform Legislation Has Conservative Values, Focuses on Public Safety

| October 6, 2017

Austin, TX — Right on Crime, the conservative campaign for criminal justice reform, applauds Congress for moving forward with important pieces of criminal justice reform legislation. Conservative principles that have led to lower crime and better outcomes for taxpayers and victims in the conservative states in which these laws have passed are the model for federal legislation.

Rep. Doug Collins is a leader on this issue, recognizing that his home state of Georgia, like many other conservative states, is the model for Congress. The Prison Reform and Redemption Act refocuses resources in federal prisons to be able to avoid prisoners reoffending upon release. “This bill reminds us of one of the most important reasons we have prisons in the first place—to protect public safety by rehabilitating prisoners,” said Kelly McCutchen, President and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “This bill adds an essential risk and needs assessment upon intake, and periodically throughout a sentence, in order to prepare offenders for returning to society after serving out their deserved punishment.”

The importance of keeping people out of prison who should not be there in the first place cannot be overstated. Senator Orrin Hatch introduced the Mens Rea Reform Act on Monday, alongside Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, David Perdue, and Rand Paul. “There are far too many federal laws and regulations that people don’t know exist, and we have over-criminalized innocent conduct,” said Sidney Powell, former federal prosecutor and author of Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice. “The Supreme Court has held that before a person faces the moral condemnation of society that a criminal prosecution brings, they should have fair warning that the conduct is criminal.  Requiring intent to commit a crime draws the bright line needed.  Senator Hatch’s bill recognizes that criminal intent is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system. We cannot seriously discuss criminal justice reform without this element.”

Most recently, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, sponsored by Chairman Chuck Grassley, and also cosponsored by Senators Mike Lee, Tim Scott, and a bipartisan group of senators, aims to lower sentences for low-level, nonviolent offenders in the federal system, while also adding necessary risk and needs assessments. “The reforms in this bill will enhance public safety by encouraging rehabilitation and allowing law enforcement to focus on halting violent crime,” said Pat Nolan, Director of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform.  “As usual, this is an area where states have been leaders. Congress is playing catch up here, and this legislation will help to rebalance the federal system so that it reflects conservative values,” he added.

“All of these pieces of legislation are grounded in evidence and experience in conservative states. Taken in total, they represent the first serious steps that this Congress has taken in moving the ball forward on justice reform,” said Nolan. “The fact that much of the effort is bipartisan shows that even those on the Left recognize that conservative policy leads to the best results for public safety and protecting taxpayers.”

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RIGHT ON CRIME is a national campaign to promote successful, conservative solutions on American criminal justice policy—reforming the system to ensure public safety, shrink government, and save taxpayers money. By sharing research and policy ideas and mobilizing strong conservative voices, we work to raise awareness of the growing support for effective reforms within the conservative movement. We are transforming the debate on criminal justice in America.

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