Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the newest signatory to the Right On Crime statement of principles, which aligns the conservative agenda on criminal justice reform with long-standing conservative principles such as accountability, limited government, and fiscal responsibility.

“States across the country, including Florida, are proving that policies based on these sound conservative principles will reduce crime and its cost to taxpayers,” Gov. Bush said.  “Many of the signatories of this statement of principles are respected leaders and friends, and I am pleased to add my support.”

“Jeb Bush’s track record as Governor of Florida was marked by consistent and visionary conservative leadership,” said ROC senior policy advisor Marc Levin.  “Gov. Bush’s endorsement of these principles increases the credibility of the conservative criminal justice reform movement on a national level.  Gov. Bush’s support will also provide valuable momentum in Florida, which presents one of the best opportunities for implementing these reforms that better protect the public and reduce the costs of crime.”

Several of Gov. Bush’s most prominent accomplishments as Governor came in the area of conservative criminal justice reform.  For example, Gov. Bush issued an executive order promoting the hiring of ex-offenders. “The ability of ex-offenders to obtain employment after incarceration and become productive members of their communities is essential to reducing recidivism rates,” he said, “but due to employers’ concerns about liability, the honest completion of job applications often results in ex-offenders being unable to find work.” (The final report of the Ex-Offender Task Force, which he established, can be read here.)

Gov. Bush also championed the Redirection juvenile justice program in Florida which has dramatically reduced both incarceration and recidivism.  It has also saved Florida taxpayers an estimated $51.2 million. “In Florida, increased funding has gone into residential programs for habitual juvenile offenders who have committed felonies,” he observed in a 1995 speech. “Costs can be as high as $150 a day, and yet the recidivism rates exceed 75 percent. Thus the annual cost for a young person successfully completing one of these programs and not violating the law for one year afterwards can exceed $180,000. Shouldn’t we challenge the notion of attempting to “save” a young person in costly government programs after their thirtieth crime and focus our resources on less costly private programs closer to the first crime committed?”  (The full speech can be read here, in previous issue of Hillsdale College’s monthly speech digest, Imprimis.)

Ten states across the country have enacted reforms this year that are aligned with the Right On Crime statement of principles.  These reforms include:

·     Juvenile justice overhauls in Florida and Texas;

·     Closure of no-longer-needed prisons in Colorado and Texas;

·     Evidence-based diversion programs that will offset the need for new prisons in Arkansas and Ohio; and

·     Parole reforms in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

The conservative statement of principles and the current list of signatories is available here.