September 10 2012

Conservative and Liberal Intersection in Criminal Justice

Diana McKibben

A recent opinion piece in the Huffington Post noted that the Republican Party is coming around to good ideas for criminal justice reform which include reducing America’s prison population. The piece states that for the first time in forty years, conservative leaders and think tanks are talking about taking smarter, rather than tougher, approaches to crime.

Some tough stances on crime are still smart stances on crime, but there is an inspiring intersection between the right and the left on criminal justice which we hope will shed new light on conservatism’s goodwill despite constant efforts to paint Republicans as heartless; moreover, we hope it will result in pragmatic and successful criminal justice reform in the near future.

On the one hand, the recent GOP platform is rightfully stern on serious criminality. It supports “mandatory prison sentencing for gang crimes, violent or sexual offenses against children, repeat drug dealers, rape, robbery and murder.” It supports “a national registry for convicted child murderers. [It opposes] parole for dangerous or repeat felons. Courts should have the option of imposing the death penalty in capital murder cases.”

Indeed, the GOP platform has also announced that “Prisons should do more than punish; they should attempt to rehabilitate and institute proven prisoner reentry systems to reduce recidivism and future victimization.” Further, the platform supports a movement called restorative justice, which endeavors to “make the victim whole and put the offender on the right path, can give law enforcement the flexibility it in dealing with different levels of criminal behavior.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) sponsors a project called “Right on Crime” http://www.rightoncrime.com/ which advocates a conservative stance on criminal justice reform which does appear to overlap with certain liberal goals.

The TPPF notes that certain programs across the U.S. are embracing the important problem of recidivism, and the challenges of prisoner reentry. The TPPF website notes that in Detroit, for example, the program nicknamed “New Beginnings,” has police officers serve as mentors to parolees, aiding offenders in job placement and arranging for community service and volunteerism opportunities. In Cleveland, “Breaking the Cycle” focuses first and foremost on job placement. These programs represent critical, and yes, conservative efforts, and we hope both parties will continue in this increasingly apparent alliance to make them a reality.

 

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