In this edition of the ‘The Federalist Radio Hour,’ senior writer Mary Katherine Ham interviews Steven Teles, associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University and author of Prison Break: How Conservatives Turned Against Mass Incarceration, about how conservatives began questioning the “tough on crime” mantra that had come to define the movement for previous generations, in favor of casting a more critical eye towards the inefficiency and poor outcomes of America’s corrections systems.
Part of the discussion revolved around major players involved in cultivating a paradigm shift among policymakers surrounding crime and incarceration—at both the state and federal levels. Teles describes the significant efforts of early Right on Crime signatory Chuck Colson in providing a strong evangelical justification for engaging in justice reform following his incarceration as part of the Watergate incident. He also highlights the work of former California legislator Pat Nolan, who has been instrumental in forging relationships among influential national stakeholders, who have proved well-positioned to spread a reform message to much of the country.
Teles also explains the environment in Texas that lead then-House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden—now a Right on Crime senior fellow—to begin curbing the state’s expected growth in prison population, instead investing in an expansion of alternatives to incarceration, such as drug courts and improved probation and parole practices. The reforms advanced by Madden, the Texas Public Policy Foundation—who, through the work of Marc Levin, realized the opportunity such reforms could present for Texas and conservative thought nationwide—and others in 2007 helped Texas save or defer at least $2 billion dollars, and has emboldened other conservative red states to examine their own corrections systems for substantial reform.
Mary Katherine Ham’s full interview with Teles can be found below: