Criminal law

Don’t back away from criminal justice reform


For those of us who work with the grassroots, it is not surprising that polls show that the American people do not always trust politicians to solve their problems. Indeed, Congress has received low ratings for decades; The majority did not approve of the job they did Since April 2003.

But sometimes, Congress comes to its senses to pass impactful legislation. These moments of sensitivity are often rooted in conservative principles. Take First step lawFor example – the criminal justice bill that was supported by a large majority in the House and Senate, and then-President Trump signed it into law in 2018. The bill helped non-violent prisoners get shorter sentences through education and work, and it also reduced some mandatory minimum sentences that lacked any public safety benefit. Data shows that the bill reduces recidivism, making our communities safer.

But as the political season enters its climax, the law has become a target of criticism from those who believe a harsh criminal justice system is more effective at reducing crime. Indeed, some called for the repeal of this legislation. That’s just not uninformedBut it is also a short-sighted mistake. Now is not the time to evade improving the criminal justice system; Instead, we must build on the success of the First Step Act.

America is imprisoned Its citizens are more than any other country on Earth. In the United States, land of the free and home of the brave, we have over two million prisoners – a staggering 629 out of every 100,000 people. Rwanda comes in a distant second. However, as a nation, We are ranked 3rd for safety from violent crime. The mismatch between imprisonment and safety should concern anyone who cares about the size, scope and power of government, not to mention costs.

As conservatives, we know that America thrives when families are strong, communities are secure, and our economy is strong. We stress that we are “tough on crime” but we also want to be smart on crime. Doing both means making neighborhoods safer by holding people to account with swift, specific penalties proportional to the crime. But we must also enact policies that help prisoners rehabilitate so they can return to society and become law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

The First Step Act is a conservative and constructive approach to enhancing public safety while giving prisoners a path to regaining public trust. In fact, we helped formulate Legislate in collaboration with public safety leaders and agencies, victims’ rights organizations, stakeholders in state legislatures, and ordinary Americans affected by our criminal justice system.

The legislation has had positive results – not the least of which is a significantly lower recidivism rate for those who have benefited from the bill. Because every reoffending case means another criminal case with another victim, reoffending is a key indicator of the performance of our criminal justice system. And when measured by recidivism, the benefits of the First Step Act are undeniable.

The return rate for people released from federal facilities in recent years has been 43 percent, which means that nearly half of the people who leave federal prison will commit another crime after their release. Prisons at the state level hold a The recidivism rate is 37 percent. But since the First Step Act became law in late 2018, more than 30,000 federal prisoners have undergone the First Step program and been granted early release, with Only 12.4 percent He was arrested and imprisoned again.

What did the First Step Act do to significantly influence the revolving door in and out of prison? I have motivated prisoners to complete programs that have proven effective in reducing recidivism and preparing them for life outside prison. Second, inmates are required to prove that they no longer pose a threat to public safety through the use of an evidence-based risk assessment tool to help determine who might commit a crime again if released. Those who fail to meet the risk assessment requirements cannot benefit from the early release provisions in the legislation. Finally, it reformed the mandatory “three strikes and you’re out” life sentences for the third drug conviction, a law that disproportionately affected black men, but failed to increase public safety.

The First Step Act has delivered on its promise. As a result, other states led by Republicans It has succeeded Similar legislation, proving that conservatives are tough and smart on crime.

The First Step Act is not the only successful reform of the justice system. The Conservatives also introduced smart but tough policies in passing the Constitution Care Act In March 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic imminent. The CARES Act was known primarily for its economic relief designed for individuals and small businesses affected by the shutdown of the economy. But the media has practically ignored another aspect of the CARES Act, which helped nearly 12,000 minimum-security federal prisoners finish their sentences in home confinement rather than taxpayer-funded prison cells. Since its implementation, there has been a staggering decline The recidivism rate is just 0.15 percent Only 17 prisoners committed new crimes.

As conservatives, we want what’s best for our communities, and part of that includes helping prisoners return home to good husbands, parents, and neighbors while reducing costs for taxpayers. For years, Congress has talked about reducing recidivism and restoring lives. But the successes of the First Step Act and the CARES Act underscore the importance of conservative values ​​in crafting effective legislation that can be enacted.

Instead of trying to score cheap political points, politicians should continue to work toward a more effective justice system that reduces crime, makes neighborhoods safer, and provides rehabilitation. By doing so, conservatives can continue to win the trust of the American people for years to come.

Timothy Head is the Executive Director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. David Safafian is the general counsel and senior vice president of the American Conservative Association.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. all rights are save. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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