This past week Chuck DeVore, Vice President of Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, sat down with Rick Amato on the OneAmerica Network to discuss criminal justice issues from a conservative perspective.
DeVore began by recapping the changes that have occurred in Texas in the last several years, a bipartisan movement to get the state off of the expensive track its correctional facilities were heading down. This movement managed to slow government spending and rather than opening new prisons as expected the state shut several down. What followed this move many didn’t expect. Instead of crime rates moving upward as some predicted the state is now experiencing its lowest crime rates since the sixties.
The saved funding from these changes is now being used much more efficiently, DeVore notes. Instead of being used to create new cells for the non-violent offenders he focuses on, it is being spent on programs that have demonstrably lowered recidivism, such as substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation, and community monitoring.
This efficiency is exactly what conservatives support. DeVore reminds us that, “Conservatives ought to be skeptical of government, all of government, not just certain aspects of government.” Lowering government spending and utilizing the funds in the most efficient manner possible is the essence of conservatism.
Amato was particularly curious about how DeVore felt about drug crimes. Differentiating between legalization and decriminalization, DeVore showed that legalization ignored chemical dependencies but that decriminalization was a movement to divert the offenders from the path they were on by using the fact that they had broken the law as a “hammer” to force them to address the issue of their dependency, for the betterment and safety of everyone around them.
Finally, Amato asked about the issue of race in the criminal justice and correctional systems. The underlying demographics of poverty and unemployment were the real offenders, DeVore argued, and once those had been challenged the system should be reevaluated.