Criminal-Justice Reform Is a Conservative Cause

This op-ed was jointly authored by Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, Timothy Head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, and Marc Levin of Right on Crime.

If you are a conservative and you are not behind major reforms to the criminal-justice system, you are terribly late to the party. But we wouldn’t blame you — Washington is finally catching up to years of successful reforms in red states.

Consider the conservative stalwarts behind the most recent federal legislation. Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) has introduced a bill that expands the existing “safety valve” exception to some mandatory minimum sentences. The bill focuses on rehabilitation and treatment of offenders in the federal prison system so they will have the opportunity to become productive citizens when they reenter society. It would also enhance public safety while addressing the costs associated with incarceration. Those are sound, conservative principles.

In the House, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) has introduced companion legislation on sentencing reform. And let’s not forget that Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) introduced a comprehensive criminal-justice reform bill, the SAFE Justice Act, earlier this year.

No one who is paying attention would call Grassley, Goodlatte, and Sensenbrenner anything other than conservative standard-bearers.

Rather than a hastily constructed package of reforms, outlined recently in the Weekly Standard, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, currently slated for markup in the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been under negotiation for months. This is no rush to pass legislation but rather a drive to catch up to conservative states that have successfully reformed their prison systems and lowered their crime rates over the past decade.