Criminal Justice Reform a Bipartisan Winner
Adam Brandon is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks. Wade Henderson is president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. FreedomWorks and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights are partners with the U.S. Justice Action Network.
Since one in three adults have a criminal record, nearly every American has a family member, loved one or neighbor who has — or who will — come in contact with the criminal justice system. These numbers are mind-boggling and create a huge financial burden on taxpayers, who shoulder an enormous $80 billion annual price tag to maintain a prison system that winds up sending more and more people back to jail. Not to mention, the costs keep getting worse — taxpayer spending on those prisons has increased nearly 600 percent in the past 30 years.
Our bipartisan coalition, the U.S. Justice Action Network, came together to take action and showcase the growing support across the country for justice reform. We polled likely voters in Nevada and five other key 2016 battleground states, and it’s clear there is a strong consensus on this issue. An overwhelming majority of likely voters in Nevada, regardless of political party, agree that the current criminal justice system imprisons too many for too long, mandatory minimum sentences should be replaced, and judges should have greater discretion in determining sentences.
At a time when our federal prison system houses more than 2.3 million Americans, it’s no surprise 64 percent of voters in Nevada agree that system holds too many individuals who’ve committed nonviolent crimes. And 70 percent of voters agree that the federal government is spending too much tax money keeping those who have committed nonviolent offenses behind bars.
These are levels of support any politician in office or running for office would envy. Some politicians have already gotten the message. Since 2012, nearly two dozen states — including red states such as Texas and Georgia and blue states such as Rhode Island and Oregon) — and more than 100 local governments have passed bipartisan legislation to reform their own prison systems or make it easier for those who have committed nonviolent offenses to access resources such as job training that help them reintegrate into society. These policies have driven down costs, reduced prison populations and reduced crime.