Righteously Right on Crime

Minnesota Congressman Jason Lewis recently voted in favor of a bill which (in the words of the press release issued by his office) “aims to lower our prison systems’ recidivism rate by expanding rehabilitation programs for inmates to help them successfully re-enter our communities.”  Good, I say, and congratulations.  I just hope it delivers what it promises if it ever becomes law.

The Star Tribune, in a front-page story (May 29) about Lewis’ vote, noted that he had teamed with a Democrat from Virginia, Rep. Bobby Scott, in sponsoring the legislation, the FIRST STEP Act (H.R. 5682).  Good again.

The Strib story, continuing the bipartisan theme, spoke of the “ideologically diverse” groups that support of the legislation, citing the NAACP, FreedomWorks, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and the American Conservative Union.  Very much welcomed once more, but that collection is not nearly half of it, as most people don’t know the degree to which conservative leaders and groups have been key partners and players in criminal reform efforts over the last decade.

Not as well-known as many other conservative organizations, “Right on Crime” has supported “conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering taxpayer costs” since its founding in 2007 by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, American Experiment’s sister think tank in Austin.  Perpetually working collaboratively with a variety of individuals and groups across the country, Right on Crime has sought “cost-effective approaches that also enhance public safety” by incapacitating “dangerous offenders and career criminals,” but doing so in ways that don’t turn “non-violent, low-risk offenders’ into bigger public risks.”

This is all excellent, as is the fact that the U.S. House passed First Step (in the words of the Right on Crime website) “less than a week after a bunch of conservatives gathered to talk about criminal justice reform at the White House.”  But what I have found most compelling about the organization from its start eleven years ago is the remarkable number of conservative leaders who are aboard.  Here’s an alphabetical sampling of fifteen signatories, stretching all the way from Paleo to Neo:  Gary Bauer, Bill Bennett, Jeb Bush, Ward Connerly, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rabbi David Lapin, Ed Meese, Steve Moore, Grover Norquist, Star Parker, Rick Perry, Ralph Reed, J.C. Watts, and Bob Woodson.

Various folks surely find all this activity hard to believe.  I prefer thinking of it as quite righteous.