Monday, June 10, 2013

A Conservative Case for Prison Reform -

Richard Viguerie has long been an architect of the conservative movement.   In the past thirty years politicians competed to be tougher on crime.  A racist undertone was often apparent - leading to New York's massive stop and frisk program.  Now Viguerie, like a growing number of conservatives (whose distrust of government I generally find to be excessive in its individualism and lacking in compassion)  has come to doubt our reliance on incarceration.  See, for example the blog Right on Crime.  In an Op-Ed piece in today's Times he recognizes the cruelty, and ineffectiveness of the war on drugs, and our reliance on incarceration at a rate unmatched anywhere else in the world.    - GWC

A Conservative Case for Prison Reform -
by Richard Viguerie

MANASSAS, Va. — CONSERVATIVES should recognize that the entire criminal justice system is another government spending program fraught with the issues that plague all government programs. Criminal justice should be subject to the same level of skepticism and scrutiny that we apply to any other government program.
These three principles — public safety, compassion and controlled government spending — lie at the core of conservative philosophy. Politically speaking, conservatives will have more credibility than liberals in addressing prison reform.
The United States now has 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of its prisoners. Nearly one in every 33 American adults is in some form of correctional control. When Ronald Reagan was president, the total correctional control rate — everyone in prison or jail or on probation or parole — was less than half that: 1 in every 77 adults.

But it’s not just the excessive and unwise spending that offends conservative values. Prisons, for example, are harmful to prisoners and their families. Reform is therefore also an issue of compassion. The current system often turns out prisoners who are more harmful to society than when they went in, so prison and re-entry reform are issues of public safety as well.

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