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Paul, Christie, Fiorina Bow Out, But Leave a Reform Legacy

As Gov. Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and Sen. Rand Paul have bowed out of the race for Republican nominee for President, Right on Crime commends them for their efforts to elevate criminal justice reform onto the national stage.

Over the last ten years, conservative states nationwide have made the realization that previous decades worth of “tough on crime” policies haven’t yielded the sort of return on investment that the public demands of its justice system—in terms of dollars spent, and most importantly, in terms of improving public safety.

On the campaign trail, Christie, Fiorina, and Paul admirably called into question the wisdom of maintaining a current system that doesn’t always recognize the possibility for more efficacious, alternative sanctions to incarceration—particularly for non-violent drug offenders. Gov. Christie has been forthright about the need to treat such cases differently. From the New Hampshire debate:

“Three years ago, I proposed a law that we signed into effect, which said that anyone who is a non-violent, non-dealing, first-time drug offender no longer goes to prison in New Jersey, they go to mandatory in-patient drug treatment. What’s happened is, crime has gone down twenty percent in those three years; the prison population has gone down ten percent. We’ve now closed the state prison… and turned into a drug rehabilitation facility so people can get the tools they need.”

Carly Fiorina also relayed a personal story regarding drug addiction and the need for criminal justice reform. From the first debate in California:

“My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction. So, we must invest more in the treatment of drugs…We do need criminal justice reform. We have the highest incarceration rates in the world.”

In addition to Sen. Paul’s comments on justice reform from the campaign trail, he has also been a consistent co-sponsor or author on many reform bills that have surfaced in the Senate—from the FAIR Act, which rolls back federal civil forfeiture practices, to the Smarter Sentencing Act and, most recently, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act:

“I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration. I’m a fan of the drug courts which try to direct you back towards work and less time in jail.”

As Congress is currently deliberating on several criminal justice reform bills, it’s important that the issue remain a focus—from Republican and Democrat candidate alike. The states have paved a road to successful reform for years. Continued exposure during both presidential primaries can help usher in the same success at the federal level, as well.

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