Friday, February 11, 2011

Norquist on 'Conservative Principles and Prison'

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, writing in yesterday's National Review Online, argues that "the 'lock ’em up and throw away the key' mentality forces conservatives to ignore [their] fundamental principles," encouraging reduced incarceration rates and citing Texas' recent example:
Consider Texas, a state legendary for being “tough on crime.” When the Lone Star State’s incarceration rates were cut by 8 percent, the crime rate actually dropped by 6 percent. Texas did not simply release the prisoners, however. Instead, it placed them under community supervision, in drug courts, and in short-term intermediate sanctions and treatment facilities. Moreover, it linked the funding of the supervision programs to their ability to reduce the number of probationers who returned to prison. These strategies saved Texas $2 billion on prison construction. Does this mean Texas has gotten “soft on crime”? Certainly not. The Texas crime rate has actually dropped to its lowest level since 1973.

The lesson from Texas is that conservatives can push reforms that both keep Americans safe and save money, but only if we return to conservative principles of local control, performance-based funding, and free-market innovation.
The article closes:
Conservative principles don’t have to change to make the criminal-justice system successful, but the stance conservative leaders take must. There is no reason that conservatives should be tied to the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” strategy; rather, we must stand for the very principles of limited government, federal accountability, and reduced spending that our forefathers effectively deployed. I ask my fellow conservative leaders to reconsider the “tough on crime” approach so that we can cost-effectively increase public safety.
Good stuff. Read the whole thing. Mr. Norquist strikes me as a man who is prepared to believe impossible things.


Anonymous said...

See Scott, THIS is what I am talking about! Keep this up and the money will be there!

Prison Doc said...

I really did a double take on this when I saw Norquist's name on it--maybe I'm not the only radical religous right redneck conservative to think out of the box (or out of the prison) on corrections.

Anonymous said...

Naaaawwww - it's "tough on crime" that gets the politicos reelected, not advocating programs that are fiscally sound and effective.

Anonymous said...

Aside from those who have been allowed to execute offenders for any offense. No civilization, country, state, county or society has ever built thier way out of an incarceration crisis.
Every dollar spent on prisons and guards could have been better spent on schools and teachers.
Not saying prisons are not needed, like everything else government does, it grows beyond its need and then is so entrinced in its thinking AND cost. Its hard to stop after funneling dollar after dollar for years.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:55:

Very well thought and eloquent post. Your observations while not new to this blog are always needed to be restated so that it is never forgotten.

I am surprised however you did not continue to state the follow on of what happens to that society after it has reached maximum overhead in prison.

many great historical societies have all crumbled in the wake of the incarceration waves that eventually became too much of a burden to bare. Will that happen, could be, or might not, depends on if someone will finally step in and say enough.

Alan said...

My head is spinning! Scott Henson, Grover Norquist...and me!...are peas in a pod? Is this subject a special case that transcends cheap politics and trades it in for good governance?

Audrey said...

When you are in a state, such as Texas, that manufactures criminal charges to meet quotas and substantiate the prison funding and prosecutorial conviction rates, then of course it will adjust to decreased funding. The word goes down to the judges, prosecutors, police officers and public defenders....this is what is available....fill the order accordingly. That is not a secret, it is openly discussed among all the players. Texas has created a machine that must be fed (and adjusted occasionally) is BIG business.

"When Texas incarceration rates were cut by 8%, the crime rate dropped by 6%." We can say that is because of treatment and supervision, therefore less recidivism...or there is the other possibilty...a reduction in quotas thus less manufacturing of criminal charges. I don't honestly believe that true crime rates are that cooperative with the incarceration rates. One can look at statistics and read anything into them based on their perspective. Just I have done. Which is right?

Anonymous said...

The nonsense that comes out of the right-wing talking pundits leaves me to believe that people who follow them don't actually read/listen to what they have to say. That Norquist could actually have something substantial to say is significant.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see conservatives agreeing to what TRUE liberals have been saying for decades. Now that the Norquists of the world say it is "OK," maybe some spineless Dems and "follow the Teabagger" Repubs will get on board.

Jim Stott said...

Unfortunately, to Joe Public, being "tough on crime" means locking them up and throwing away the key. After so many years in this business, I have come to realize that many offenders aren't scared of prison as much as they are scared of changing their lifestyle. In our time, learning to be responsible and changing a lifetime of bad choices is a lot tougher than the inconvenience of a prison term.

Steve said...

Well said, Jim. That's why so many choose prison over drug treatment. Daddy went to prison, my sister has done time, and I'm going to have status and respect when I get back to the neighborhood. Moreover, I've adapted my life to drugs for so long that I can't imagine living clean and sober. Once I do get sober for a while, there's a good chance I'll relapse if I'm not working a strong program of recovery because under stress, we all go back to what's familiar. Sometimes I amazed we get good results at all.

Anonymous said...

You are right about Joe Public. However, what Joe Public never thinks about is that the key doesn't get thrown away. People almost always leave custody.

Often, the keys continues to turn sometimes daily with work-release for County Jail and many times very quickly for State Jail Felons, and never long enough for the dangerous defendant.

The other thing Joe Public doesn't think about is that guy sitting next to him at the High School Football game, or standing in line with him at the HEB, or praying with him at Church is the 1 in 12 under some form of community supervision.

Regarding offenders being afraid of changing their lifestyle, they don't even know what that means. Their lifestyle is normalcy. Not until they get placed on probation, and a CSCD that operates with a real community corrections approach begins to supervise them, do they begin to hear about lifestyle change, then they might get scared, but it is the community corrections professional whether that person is an officer or a counselor who has the charge of getting the offender from "here to there", away from the fear and into the stream of law-abiding, drug-free life.

Offenders don't "think" in terms of sobriety, program of recovery, "badge of honor" coming back to the neighborhood. All that is rhetoric and treatment jargon that means nothing to an offender unless he/she actually gets clean/sober and becomes part of a mutual support group.

I'm not amazed in the least at positive results. In all reality, even negative results are many times positive.

Although it will never happen because it would be too difficult to measure, I wish it was possible to measure how many "revoked" probationers who are no longer in the County Jail system or the Prison System and are now sober because of what they learned while on probation.

Chances are nearly 100% of those people who are sober now but went to prison by probation revocation before finally changing non-law abiding behavior learned and/or heard how to be crime-free / sober / clean while on probation. Probation will never get credit for that.

I also wonder how many of those same people are counselors now working with offenders. Like it or not, they are a negative statistic but are a positive influence now.

kaptinemo said...

Isn't it interesting how it's only when things get tight fiscally that the 'conservatives' (actually, most aren't traditional Goldwater conservatives, they're neoconservatives) 'get religion' and start talking about their 'core values' again?

Up until that time it's "lock them ('them' being mainly Blacks, Hispanics and po' White trash) up, and throw away the key!" and to Perdition with the cost to the taxpayers.

Makes you wonder just how 'dedicated' they were to their 'principles' after all...