GOP Presidential Hopefuls Could Learn from Texas on Justice Issues

The Republican presidential candidates have debated nine times since August. Nine long debates, in which moderators spent much of their time focusing on personalities and pitting candidates against each other, rather than asking substantive policy questions.

Regrettably, questions related to much-needed and long overdue justice reforms were few and far between.

FreedomWorks, a partner of the U.S. Justice Action Network, hoped that would change when CNN and Salem Radio Network jointly hosted Republican White House hopefuls at the University of Houston last week. With the field now winnowed to five candidates, there should have been time for more — and different — issues to be discussed. Justice reform deserved to be among them, especially in a debate hosted in Texas, a national leader on the issue.

Unfortunately, it was another opportunity missed.

Texas, a state that has blazed the trail on criminal justice reform over the past nine years, was the perfect setting for this much-needed conversation. The debate’s moderators should have examined the Lone Star State’s record on the issue, and asked the candidates whether they thought the federal government should emulate Texas with respect to criminal justice issues at the federal level.

While Texas is well known for its “tough on crime” image, especially its unapologetic support of the death penalty, in 2007, the Lone Star State under then-Gov. Rick Perry’s watch also pursued justice reforms undergirded by the concepts of redemption and the enhancement of public safety.