On Thursday April 17, Right on Crime and Men of Valor came together to put on a criminal justice reform symposium. Governors Matt Bevin of Kentucky, and Bill Lee of Tennessee spoke about what they believe reform should look like, and Matthew Charles gave a personal account of his time in custody.

Governor Lee, who was involved in prison ministry prior to his time as governor, stated, “What we’ve been doing hasn’t worked. The ‘tough on crime’ without being smart on crime [mindset] has resulted in increased violent crime, increased incarceration rates, increased cost to taxpayers, and more victims.” One of the biggest obstacles in Tennessee is moving the status quo says Governor Lee. “A willingness to be innovative and take the risk,” is necessary to make change, and is one of the challenges Governor Lee believes is a part of criminal justice reform.

Governor Bevin helped Kentucky become a part of Safe Streets and Second Chances, a reentry project led through partnership with Right on Crime and the Koch network. He has seen positive results and hopes to see this initiative in many more states. “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel,” stated Bevin, advocating the implementation of successful projects in every state, rather than altering what’s been shown to work.  

Governors Bevin and Lee discussed their hopes for criminal justice reform within their own states and provided insight about how to accomplish their goals. Executive Director of Safe Streets and Second Chances, John Koufos, stated that “instead of a race to the bottom as it might have been in the 90’s as to who can be harsher, we’re seeing who can be smarter on crime.” The goal of the criminal justice system is to produce safer societies, and in order to do that we must be smart on crime. Right on Crime commends Governors Lee and Bevin for approaching the criminal justice system with such a mindset, and taking initiative in the movement to reform a broken criminal justice system.

Hear from Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, and Matthew Charles.