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

Statement of Principles

A crucial part of the Right on Crime initiative is our Statement of Principles on conservative criminal justice reform, signed by over 70 of the most influential figures in the conservative movement.

As members of the nation’s conservative movement, we strongly support constitutionally limited government, transparency, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. We believe public safety is a core responsibility of government because the establishment of a well-functioning criminal justice system enforces order and respect for every person’s right to property and life, and ensures that liberty does not lead to license.

Conservatives correctly insist that government services be evaluated on whether they produce the best possible results at the lowest possible cost, but too often this lens of accountability has not focused as much on public safety policies as other areas of government. As such, corrections spending has expanded to become the second fastest growing area of state budgets—trailing only Medicaid.

Conservatives are known for being tough on crime, but we must also be tough on criminal justice spending. That means demanding more cost-effective approaches that enhance public safety. A clear example is our reliance on prisons, which serve a critical role by incapacitating dangerous offenders and career criminals but are not the solution for every type of offender. And in some instances, they have the unintended consequence of hardening nonviolent, low-risk offenders—making them a greater risk to the public than when they entered.

Applying the following conservative principles to criminal justice policy is vital to achieving a cost-effective system that protects citizens, restores victims, and reforms wrongdoers.

  1. As with any government program, the criminal justice system must be transparent and include performance measures that hold it accountable for its results in protecting the public, lowering crime rates, reducing re-offending, collecting victim restitution and conserving taxpayers’ money.
  2. Crime victims, along with the public and taxpayers, are among the key “consumers” of the criminal justice system; the victim’s conception of justice, public safety, and the offender’s risk for future criminal conduct should be prioritized when determining an appropriate punishment.
  3. The corrections system should emphasize public safety, personal responsibility, work, restitution, community service, and treatment—both in probation and parole, which supervise most offenders, and in prisons.
  4. An ideal criminal justice system works to reform amenable offenders who will return to society through harnessing the power of families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.
  5. Because incentives affect human behavior, policies for both offenders and the corrections system must align incentives with our goals of public safety, victim restitution and satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness, thereby moving from a system that grows when it fails to one that rewards results.
  6. Criminal law should be reserved for conduct that is either blameworthy or threatens public safety, not wielded to grow government and undermine economic freedom.
  7. These principles are grounded in time-tested conservative truths—constitutionally limited government, transparency, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free enterprise, and the centrality of the family and community. All of these are critical to addressing today’s criminal justice challenges. It is time to apply these principles to the task of delivering a better return on taxpayers’ investments in public safety. Our security, prosperity, and freedom depend on it.

Chuck Colson(1931–2012), Prison Fellowship Ministries



  • Jeb Bush, Former Governor of Florida
  • Robert Ehrlich, Former Maryland Governor
  • Luis Fortuño, Former Puerto Rico Governor
  • Asa Hutchinson,* Governor of Arkansas;Former U.S. Attorney and Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Rick Perry, Former Governor of Texas



  • Bob Barr, Former Prosecutor, Former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Georgia’s 7th District
  • Allan Bense, Former Speaker of the Florida House
  • Ken Blackwell, Former Ohio Secretary of State
  • Craig DeRoche, President, Justice Fellowship, Former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives
  • Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives;American Solutions for Winning the Future
  • Jerry Madden, Former Chairman, Texas House of Representatives Corrections Committee
  • B.J. Nikkel, Former House Republican Majority Whip, Colorado House of Representatives
  • Kris Steele, Former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
  • J.C. Watts, Former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Oklahoma’s 4th District



  • Ken Cuccinelli, Former Attorney General of Virginia
  • Deborah Daniels, Former U.S. Attorney and U.S. Assistant Attorney General
  • Richard E. Doran, Former Florida Attorney General
  • Mark Earley, Former Virginia Attorney General
  • Edwin Meese, III, Former U.S. Attorney General
  • Jim Petro, Former Ohio Attorney General
  • Hal Stratton, Former New Mexico Attorney General
  • Larry Thompson, Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General
  • Joe Whitley, Former Acting U.S. Associate Attorney General and U.S. Attorney



  • Donna Arduin, Arduin, Laffer & Moore
  • Gary L. Bauer, Former President of theFamily Research Council
  • Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks
  • Tom Giovanetti, Institute for Policy Innovation
  • Rebecca Hagelin, Executive Committee of the Council for National Policy
  • Timothy Head, Faith and Freedom Coalition
  • David Keene, Former Chairman of theAmerican Conservative Union
  • Eli Lehrer, R Street Institute
  • Stephen Moore, The Heritage Foundation
  • Penny Nance, Concerned Women for America
  • Pat Nolan, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Project at the American Conservative Union Foundation
  • Lisa B. Nelson, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
  • Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
  • Tony Perkins, Family Research Council
  • Ralph Reed, Founder of theFaith and Freedom Coalition
  • Alfred Regnery, Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund
  • Stacie Rumenap, Stop Child Predators
  • Ronald F. Scheberle, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
  • Bob Williams, State Budget Solutions
  • Richard Viguerie,



  • William J. Bennett, Former U.S. Secretary of Education and Federal “Drug Czar”
  • L. Brent Bozell, Founder, Media Research Center and Chairman of ForAmerica
  • Monica Crowley, Ph.D., Fox News political analyst
  • Erick Erickson, The Resurgent



  • Brooke Rollins, Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Connor Boyack, President, Libertas Institute
  • Matthew J. Brouillette, Commonwealth Foundation(PA)
  • Dominic M. Calabro, Florida Tax Watch (FL)
  • Jon Caldara, Independence Institute (CO)
  • Michael Carnuccio, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
  • Paul Gessing, Rio Grande Foundation(NM)
  • Dan Greenberg, Advance Arkansas Institute
  • Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation
  • John Hood, John Locke Foundation(NC)
  • Kevin Kane, Pelican Institute for Public Policy(LA)
  • George Kelling, Manhattan Institute, New York
  • Craig Ladwig, Indiana Policy Review Foundation
  • George Liebmann, Calvert Institute for Policy Research(MD)
  • J. Robert McClure, III, James Madison Institute(FL)
  • John S. McCollister,* Platte Institute(NE)
  • Kelly McCutchen, Georgia Public Policy Foundation
  • Sal Nuzzo, James Madison Institute (FL)
  • Justin Owen, Beacon Institute (TN)
  • Brenda Talent, Show-Me Institute(MO)
  • Forest Thigpen, Mississippi Center for Public Policy
  • Mike Thompson, Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (VA)
  • John Tillman, Illinois Policy Institute (IL), President, Think Freely Media



  • Ward Connerly, American Civil Rights Institute; Former Regent of the University of California
  • John J. DiIulio, Jr., University of Pennsylvania
  • Viet Dinh, Georgetown University Law Center and former U.S. Assistant Attorney General



  • David Barton, WallBuilders
  • Bishop Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church
  • Rabbi Daniel Lapin, American Alliance of Jews and Christians



  • Kurt Altman, Attorney, Former Federal and Arizona Prosecutor
  • Brad Cates, Attorney, Former Director of U.S. Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office
  • Donald Devine, Former Director, Office of Personnel Management
  • Sidney Powell, Attorney, Former Federal Prosecutor



  • Doug Deason, Deason Foundation
  • B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., Businessman/Philanthropist
  • Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of Gibson Guitar


*denotes signatory emeritus

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.