GOP primary voters support a number of criminal justice reforms according to recent polling data. The poll, commissioned by the Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition, surveyed more than 600 Texas Republican primary voters ranging from moderate to very conservative. Representatives from the coalition spoke at a press conference May 1st at the Texas state capitol, calling the results a victory for criminal justice reform advocates.

“We’re laying the groundwork for a lot of success for the upcoming legislative session,” said Texas Public Policy Foundation’s vice president of criminal justice policy Marc Levin.

The Lone Star State is often regarded as the birthplace of criminal justice reform. Back in 2007, the legislature passed a justice reinvestment package centered on the need for better returns for taxpayer dollars. “The 2007 justice reinvestment has been wildly successful,” said Levin, “Crime is down 30 percent and the incarceration rate is down by more than 20 percent.” Reform significantly improved the bottom line of Texas taxpayers.

Smart-on-Crime’s poll revealed voters are ready to build on that success. Key findings include support for increasing education and vocational training programs as well as reclassifying nonviolent drug offenses when small amounts are involved. Levin commented that Texas GOP voters’ interest in criminal justice reform should come as no surprise given reforms line up with conservative ideals of limited government and personal responsibility.

Texas House Committee on Corrections Chairman James White (R-HD19) also spoke at the press conference. He said that while Texans want to see violent criminals rounded up, they also want to see rehabilitation. “The vast majority of these folks are coming back to our communities, and they need to come back with their sleeves rolled up,” said White.

Job training programs are one way to help ensure people coming out of prison are better than when they went in.

91 percent of GOP primary voters favor increasing job training programs. This comes at a critical time where Congress has been working with the White House and coalition advocates, including Prison Fellowship and Right on Crime, to reduce recidivism through rehabilitation programs. Federal lawmakers have an opportunity to do just that by taking up the Prison Reform and Redemption Act by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA).

As Texas lawmakers continue to prepare for the 2019 legislative session, they should consider opportunities for criminal justice reform. They are well-armed with constituent support, Chairman White’s leadership, and a legacy of success.

Complete list of speakers from the Smart-on-Crime Coalition press conference:
Texas Smart-on-Crime Coalition’s chief strategist Bill Hammond, Texas Rep. James White, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s lead attorney Lindsey Linder, Texas Public Policy Foundation’s vice president of criminal justice policy Marc Levin and Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s criminal justice policy analyst Doug Smith.