Monday, June 10, 2013

Richard Viguerie on conservatism and criminal justice

A remarkable editorial published yesterday in the New York Times by right-wing direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie makes the "conservative case for prison reform." The article opens with this bold pronouncement: "Conservatives should recognize that the entire criminal justice system is another government spending program fraught with the issues that plague all government programs. Criminal justice should be subject to the same level of skepticism and scrutiny that we apply to any other government program."

The aging conservative fundraising pioneer concluded, "By confronting this issue head on, conservatives are showing that our principles lead to practical solutions that make government less costly and more effective. We need to do more of that. Conservatives can show the way by impressing on more of our allies and political leaders that criminal justice reform is part of a conservative agenda."

I wonder how our friends at the police unions and the prosecutors' association feel about that? Those special interests have become accustomed to much greater deference from self-styled conservatives than the movement has lately displayed toward them. As a result, they've tended to become resentful of the grassroots conservatives who presently control the Texas GOP.

In 2011, TDCAA's lobbyist Shannon Edmonds wrote that "This session's infusion of Tea Party sentiment in the legislative process has affected the standard law and order calculus that we use to gauge the potential fate of various bills. That 'Tea Party sentiment' can be boiled down to this: 'The government is the enemy. You work for the government. Do the math.'" He and Viguerie essentially agree on the conservative view of the justice system. The "enemy" rhetoric evinces paranoia, but Edmonds is right to fear that 21st century movement conservatives aren't as likely to give law enforcement a pass as their predecessors a decade or two ago.

Viguerie justly credits Texas for pioneering efforts in 2007 to reduce incarceration rates instead of spending an extra $2 billion or so on new prison construction. Texas has been deservedly lionized for its 2007 probation reforms, as were Sen. John Whitmire and since-retired Rep. Jerry Madden who co-authored the reforms. But here in the Lone Star State we're painfully aware that, since then, the state has been resting on its laurels and subsequent sessions, including the most recent one, failed to follow up with more substantive de-incarceration reforms.

Still, Viguerie's column is an adept, concise statement of small-government conservative principles on criminal justice and provides a useful template for pitching criminal-justice reform issues to movement conservatives, for whom Viguerie is a virtual godfather. Good stuff. Bully for Marc Levin and his "Right on Crime" coalition for recruiting so many high-profile conservative bigwigs to their cause.

Via The American Conservative.


Anonymous said...

You know, "soft on crime" is "soft on crime," regardless of which side of the aisle they come from. It makes no difference whether they want to spend the money on feel good welfare programs or not spend the money at all. Trying to fund a criminal justice system "on the cheap" is bad public policy and ultimately endangers lives. Sooner or later, allowing dangerous criminals to run loose will come back to bite these tea party types on the butt, just as it did the touchy, feely liberals of generations past. It make take them a while to figure this out, but eventually, and inevitably, they will figure it out. See, for example, Michael Dukakis.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Right, Richard Viguerie = Michael Dukakis. Got it.

Of course, crime is declining despite reduced incarceration, but by all means don't let facts get in the way of your opinions.

Anonymous said...

Add George Will to that list .

I like the idea of ending plea bargaining and taking every single case to trail let se how tough on crime we are when we see the hidden cost of looking every one up and making every human behavior a felony .

How does locking up some one for decades make any one whole again as laws are intend ?

BTW Legalizing drug would reduce crime . It is easier than your think any president can or he FDA and DEA to schedule mod rugs currently illegal and those now sold at a pharmacies by prescription as OTC behind the counter and let people think for themselves also this reduces the cost of health care drastically . a win win

We could cut our prison budget drastically cut law enforcement and the cost of ligating a criminal case budgets and save on expenses which translates into lower taxes at every level . We're now talking 100s of billions and a safer society with more freedom

Texas Maverick said...

has anyone modeled taking every case to trial to estimate the time and cost involved? Might make DA's have to actually work for a change. Should be an interesting $$$. Yes to legal mj, but meth is yet to have an answer and is a bigger problem in rural areas.

Anonymous said...

DMN is reporting that Perry is considering slashing funds that support the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. Bad news. Very stupid

Anonymous said...

Oh hells bells, what will our District Attorneys campaign with if they can't huff and puff about how many "they" sent to the pen?