Friday, December 21, 2018

Takeaways for TX legislators and national #cjreform activists on the #FirstStepAct and bipartisan reform

Grits has been involved in passing bipartisan criminal-justice reforms at the Texas Legislature since 2001, so is excited to see the First Step Act passed in Congress.

There are many lessons to be learned here, but let's quickly highlight a few takeaways for two audiences in particular: national criminal-justice reformers and conservative Texas legislators.

What national #cjreform supporters should take away from the First Step Act:
  • Bipartisan reform isn't just some weird thing that happens in red states like Texas. The strategy is portable, and will work in Congress, too.
  • Conservatives will support incremental justice reform, in some cases enthusiastically, if they can do so on their own terms without agreeing to a more comprehensive liberal agenda.
  • Conservative legislators will respond to conservative messengers. Matching messengers and messages to targets is an important part of bipartisan work: Some folks can only only hear messages from people already in their camp. So cultivate those messengers!
  • Politics remains the art of compromise, the art of the possible. Government doesn't always function well, but when something does happen, often everyone leaves the table with half-a-loaf. That's by design, and it's okay. You can always come back. Which brings us to ...
  • First steps imply second steps. Every legislator voting "yes" vote on the First Step Act has momentum for their next pro-#cjreform vote, so build on it.
What conservative Texas legislators should take away from the First Step Act:
  • Washington mimicked Texas' approach on bipartisan reform: Texas should continue down the same path. Lone Star legislators should start with areas where the two party platforms agree on a #cjreform agenda.
  • Conservative constituencies turned up big for the First Step Act, from the Texas Public Policy Foundation to Freedom Works to Prison Fellowship to the American Conservative Union. In 2019, #cjreform is all of a sudden a conservative priority, if in part by default because legislation on other topics cannot move in Washington.
  • With Donald Trump's full-throated endorsement of the First Step Act, and with his son-in-law championing it in his administration, conservative Republicans supporting #cjreform are aligning themselves with the president headed into the next election.


Anonymous said...

Oh my...God save us from a comprehensive liberal agenda! :)

Merry Christmas, Grits.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You're welcome to push for it. Just don't demand that conservatives endorse it in order to be your ally on #cjreform. Merry Christmas to you, too.

Jorge Antonio Renaud said...

Right, and the Patriot Act implied good and dignified responses to terrorism; the No Child Left Behind act implied an honest, even-handed approach to addressing the needs of marginalized school districts; and the Prison Rape Elimination Act - well, do I need to go on? Come on, Grits - basing an argument on the efficacy of a given piece of legislation based on its name is lazy, and that's not you. Give some credit to the overwhelming number of groups of FIPs who, despite murmuring on this blog otherwise about their competency, can advance quite a few valid arguments about the danger of piece-meal legislation better at producing "we did it!!" bonhomie from neo-liberals (whose only foray into a cage were guided tours by spit-shined wardens) than in actually knowing what the majority of incarcerated individuals actually face, both inside and after leaving. This continued drumbeat about the "perfect being the enemy of the good" covers up the fact that this, and the recent "victory" in Florida, did more to ossify already hardening distinctions betweens those who "shouldn't" be in prison and to whom we can give good-time and the right to vote, and those who "should" be in prison and to whom we can deny in-prison education, health care, in-person visits, etc. Maybe try some John Pfaff sometime.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You're right, Jorge, let's just wait until ALL the problems can be solved. Until then, we'll refuse to solve any of them. That'll teach 'em. smh

You obviously would rather no one benefit if you can't win a global victory. IMO that's irresponsible. We must agree to disagree.

As for Pfaff, I engaged his arguments here when his book came out. He never responded, and nothing he's written since has changed my opinion.

Happy holidays, though. The disagreement is nothing personal. But I certainly do disagree with you.