In past years Georgia has seen the same increase in crime and incarceration as the rest of the nation. “Tough on Crime” legislation led to steeply increased prison populations. But the state had a different response in recent years, one that is referred to by many people as the Georgia Model. This model has saved taxpayers millions of dollars and has not hindered, if not contributed to, the lowered crime rates in the state.

The Charles Koch Foundation gathered several stakeholders in criminal justice reform and particularly justice reform in Georgia to discuss what has occurred, how, and what is still left to accomplish. Marc Levin, Director of Right on Crime, participated in the panel, and led off the discussion by discussing how Georgia has taken the reforms that Texas began and run with them, perhaps even expanding their reforms.

The Koch moderater, Ewan Watt, asked Kelly McCutchen, the Director and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation what was conservative about criminal justice reform. McCutchen responded by remarking on the one-size-fits-all trend in criminal justice in past years and attributed the change in policy to Marc Levin when he encouraged his organization to reexamine their premise.

“From a conservative perspective it is not fiscally responsible to spend money on incarceration that is not effective. It is also changing people’s lives for the worse, these are people that can come out and become productive citizens. If they didn’t go to prison, and we had sent them into alternatives, that addressed some of their underlying problems – based on the evidence – then that is a conservative solution. The key is being right on crime, not tough on crime.”

Marissa McCall Dodson and Marc Levin both discussed policies and programs that they believed had furthered the improvements and reforms in the state. Diversion and alternative punitive measures were cited as key factors. Marc Levin also advocated for increased restorative justice programs, stating “When someone steals something from me, I am the victim, not the government,” and urging the greater participation of victims in the criminal justice process.

Watch the discussion below.