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Op-ed Placement

Republicans Should Promote Justice Reform in State of the Union Response

Originally Published in Medium on 1/6/16.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will deliver his last State of the Union address to Congress. The address will no doubt have a heavy focus on foreign policy, terrorism, and controversial gun control actions. Another topic expected to receive some attention, with legislation on the move in the Senate, is criminal justice reform.

It would be an understatement to say that there are frequent disagreements on policy issues between the president and congressional Republicans. The White House has been promoting sentencing reform, corrections reform, and prisoner re-entry for months. Criminal justice reform is one area that has found support from some of the most conservative members of Congress, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) chose South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union. Although the speech will offer the GOP’s perspective on policy issues, especially in an election year, Republicans would be wise to include criminal justice reform in Haley’s remarks.

South Carolina has already implemented some criminal justice reforms that could be used to promote the issue from a conservative perspective. In 2010, both chambers of the South Carolina Legislature approved the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act, which overhauled the state’s sentencing and corrections policies.