A crucial part of the Right on Crime initiative is our Statement of Principles on conservative criminal justice reform, signed by over 90 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 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.

ONE 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.

TWO 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.

THREE 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.

FOUR 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.

FIVE 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 costeffectiveness, thereby moving from a system that grows when it fails to one that rewards results.

SIX Criminal law should be reserved for conduct that is either blameworthy or threatens public safety, not wielded to grow government and undermine economic freedom.

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 — In Memoriam
  • Kevin Kane (1966-2016), Pelican Institute for Public Policy (LA) — In Memoriam


  • Jeb Bush, Former Governor of Florida
  • Robert Ehrlich, Former Maryland Governor
  • Luis Fortuño, Former Puerto Rico Governor
  • Mike Huckabee, Former Arkansas 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
  • Bill Haslam, Former Governor of Tennessee


  • Jeff Atwater, Former Florida Senate President
  • Bob Barr, Former Prosecutor, Former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Georgia’s 7th District
  • Ken Bell, Former Florida Supreme Court Justice
  • Allan Bense, Former Speaker of the Florida House
  • Ken Blackwell, Former Ohio Secretary of State
  • Dean Cannon, Former Florida Speaker
  • Allison DeFoor, Former Florida Judge and Sheriff of Monroe County
  • Jim DeMint, Former South Carolina Senator
  • Craig DeRoche, Senior Vice President of Advocacy & Public Policy of Prison Fellowship, Former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives
  • Don Gaetz, Former Florida Senate President
  • Andy Gardner, Former Florida Senate President
  • Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives; American Solutions for Winning the Future
  • Mike Haridopolis, Former Florida Senate President
  • Bernard Kerik, Former New York City Police Commissioner
  • Jerry Madden, Former Chairman, Texas House of Representatives Corrections Committee
  • Simone Marstiller, Former Florida District Court of Appeals Judge
  • B.J. Nikkel, Former House Republican Majority Whip, Colorado House of Representatives
  • Kris Steele, Former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
  • Wansley Walters, Former Secretary, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice
  • J.C. Watts, Former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Oklahoma’s 4th District
  • Will Weatherford, Former Speaker of the Florida House
  • Pat Nolan, Former Republican Leader of the California State Assembly
  • Lisa B. Nelson, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
  • Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
  • Tony Perkins, Family Research Council
  • Ralph Reed, Founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition
  • Roberta Combs, President and CEO, Christian Coalition
  • Keith den Hollander, National Field Director, Christian Coalition
  • Stacie Rumenap, Stop Child Predators
  • Bob Williams, State Budget Solutions
  • Richard Viguerie, ConservativeHQ.com


  • 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


  • Connor Boyack, Libertas Institute
  • Matthew J. Brouillette, Commonwealth Foundation (PA)
  • Dominic M. Calabro , Florida Tax Watch (FL)
  • Jon Caldara, Independence Institute (CO)
  • Daniel Erspamer, Pelican Institute (LA)
  • Paul Gessing, Rio Grande Foundation (NM)
  • George Kelling, Manhattan Institute (NY)
  • 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)
  • Charles Mitchell, Commonwealth Foundation (PA)
  • Sal Nuzzo, James Madison Institue (FL)
  • Justin Owen, The Beacon Center (TN))
  • Jon Pritchett, Mississippi Center for Public Policy
  • Kevin Roberts, Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Kory Swanson, John Locke Foundation (NC)
  • Brenda Talent, Show-Me Institute (MO)
  • Mike Thompson, Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (VA)
  • John Tillman, Illinois Policy Institute (IL), President, Think Freely Media
  • Kyle Wingfield, Georgia Public Policy Foundation


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


  • David Barton, WallBuilders
  • Pastor Jack Graham, Prestonwood Baptist Church
  • Bishop Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church
  • Rabbi Daniel Lapin, American Alliance of Jews and Christians
  • Dr. Russell Moore, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC)


  • Kurt Altman, Former Federal and Arizona Prosecutor
  • Brad Cates, Attorney, Former Director of U.S. Justice Department of Asset Forfeiture Office
  • Donald Devine, Former Director, Office of Personnel Management
  • Matthew Orwig, Former U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Texas
  • Brett Tolman, Former U.S. Attorney, District of Utah; Former Counsel, Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Susan Broderick, Former Assistant District Attorney, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office
  • Tony Parker, Former Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Corrections


  • Doug Deason, Deason Foundation
  • Stephen Gele, Smith and Fawer
  • B. Wayne Hughes Jr., Businessman/Philanthropist
  • Henry Juszkiewicz, Gibson Guitar
  • Jay Lapeyre, Laitram
  • Raul Lopez, Men of Valor
  • Star Parker, Center for Urban Renewal and Education
  • Bob Woodson, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise

*denotes signatory emeritus