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Prisons

THE ISSUE. Prisons serve a critical role in society. In many cases – particularly cases of violent crime – the best way to handle criminal behavior is to incapacitate criminals by incarcerating them. Prisons are supremely important, but they are also a supremely expensive government program, and thus prison systems must be held to the highest standards of accountability.

THE IMPACT. One out of every one hundred adults in America is incarcerated, a total population of approximately 2.3 million. By contrast, according to a report published in The Economist, the number of imprisoned adults in America in 1970 was only one out of every 400. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 23% of the world’s reported prisoners. It is not clear, however, that these high rates of imprisonment are leading to safer communities. One study by two professors at Purdue University and Rutgers University has estimated that were we to increase incarceration by another ten percent, the subsequent reduction in crime would be only 0.5%.  The state of Florida provides a useful example.  Over the past thirteen years, the proportion of prisoners who were incarcerated for committing non-violent crimes rose by 189%.  By contrast, the proportion of inmates who committed violent crimes dropped by 28%.

For this benefit, Americans are paying dearly – between $18,000 and $50,000 per prisoner per year depending upon the state. The nation is also reaching a point where it simply does not have the capacity for so much incarceration. In 2009, the number of federal inmates rose by 3.4%, and federal prisons are now 60% over capacity.

These figures are not markers of success. Americans do not measure the success of welfare programs by maximizing the number of people who collect welfare checks. Instead success is evaluated by counting how many people are able to get off welfare. Why not apply the same evaluation to prisons?

THE CONSERVATIVE SOLUTION.

• Understand that to be considered “successful,” a prison must reduce recidivism among inmates.
• Increase the use of custodial supervision alternatives such as probation and parole for nonviolent offenders. In many cases, these programs can also be linked to mandatory drug addiction treatment and mental health counseling that would prevent recidivism. States’ daily prison costs average nearly $79.00 per day, compared to less than $3.50 per day for probation.
• Consider geriatric release programs when appropriate. Approximately 200,000 American prisoners are over the age of fifty. The cost of incarcerating them is particularly high because of their increased health care needs in old age, and their presence has turned some prisons into de facto nursing homes for felons – all funded by taxpayer.
• Consider eliminating many mandatory minimum sentencing laws for nonviolent offenses. These laws remove all discretion from judges who are the most intimately familiar with the facts of a case and who are well-positioned to know which defendants need to be in prison because they threaten public safety and which defendants would in fact not benefit from prison time.
• For those instances when prisons are necessary, explore private prison options. A study by The Reason Foundation indicated that private prisons offer cost savings of 10 to 15 percent compared to state-operated facilities. By including an incentive in private corrections contracts for lowering recidivism and the flexibility to innovate, private facilities could potentially not just save money but also compete to develop the most cost-effective recidivism reduction programming.

Louisiana Passed Justice Reforms in 2017, But How Much Is Being Utilized?

Scott Peyton | March 16, 2020
This year we saw the LSU Tigers take home a National Championship. For the first time in many years, maybe decades, the Tigers had an unbelievable defense, offense and…

Yes, Drug Courts Are Working in Louisiana

Scott Peyton | February 12, 2020
In 2017, the Louisiana Legislature, with overwhelming bipartisan support, passed ten reforms (sponsored by six republicans, two democrats, and one independent) supported by data and aimed at safely reducing…

A Coalition Letter of Support for ‘Meaningful Sentencing and Prison Reforms’ in Florida

Right on Crime | February 11, 2020
In a new letter to Florida lawmakers, a broad coalition of conservative organizations encourage the House of Representatives to improve Florida’s sentencing laws, including restoring judicial discretion in drug…

INTERVIEW: TPPF’s Alice Marie Johnson Talks Being Released From Prison, Criminal Justice Reform With Sean Hannity

Right on Crime | February 5, 2020
The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s new senior fellow Alice Marie Johnson joins Sean Hannity’s program to discuss mentoring other inmates while in prison and being released after receiving clemency…

Kentucky Governor & Lawmakers Agree: Criminal Justice Reform is a Priority in the Bluegrass State

Aubrey Vaughan Travis | January 15, 2020
Last week, Kentucky leaders on both sides of the aisle pledged to make criminal justice reform a top priority this session. This commitment is welcome given the growing prison…

First Step Act: One Year Later

Right on Crime | December 21, 2019
President Donald J. Trump The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20050 Dear Mr. President: On the one-year anniversary of the signing of the First Step Act,…

Why is it so Hard to Reform Criminal Justice?

Randy Petersen | May 10, 2019
Policing is a core function of government, one of its few necessary functions, but is also the most intrusive institution in all of government. A deliberate restraint on government’s…

Louisiana Criminal Justice Reform

Greg Glod | April 30, 2019
In 2017, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) reforms were passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support in the Louisiana Legislature and signed into law by Governor Edwards.  Over a year and…

Second Chances in Minnesota

Thomas Lyons | April 23, 2019
Recently, I had the privilege of travelling to the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Shakopee.  The facility is the only prison in Minnesota used for women.  Located a little bit…

Tennesseans Agree with Governor Lee’s Call for Criminal Justice Reform

Julie Warren | April 8, 2019
Earlier this month, Governor Bill Lee used the State of the State addressto announce details of his criminal justice reform agenda. Underlying this agenda is the intent to make Tennessee…

Oklahoma Poll Reveals Strong Support for Criminal Justice Reform

Right on Crime | April 5, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE APRIL 5, 2019 CONTACT: Andrew Speno 405-315-5924 aspeno@rightoncrime.com Oklahoma City, OK — A poll commissioned by Right on Crime and conducted by Ascend Perspectives revealed a…

Voters in Four Oklahoma Legislative Districts Signal Strong Support for Criminal Justice Reforms

Right on Crime | April 4, 2019
In new polling of registered voters in four Oklahoma legislative districts conducted for Right on Crime, voters have signaled their belief that there are too many Oklahomans in prison…
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