Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the eye of Newt

Back in December of last year I wrote a post about a conservative group that recognizes the current right wing mantra of "lock 'em all up," isn't working. The name of the group was Right on Crime. And who is one of the people behind Right on Crime?

If you guessed Newt Gingrich, you are correct.

Only, as the law profs over at Sentencing Law and Policy point out, you'd never know it from the campaign rhetoric.

From the Right on Crime website is a reprint of an editorial written by Mr. Gingrich and Mark Earley about how to cut down on recidivism. I'll include some of the highlights.

If two-thirds of public school students dropped out, or two-thirds of all bridges built collapsed within three years, would citizens tolerate it? The people of Georgia would never stand for that kind of failure. But that is exactly what is happening all across the U.S. in our prison systems. 
Last year, some 20,000 people were released from Georgia’s prisons to re-enter our communities. If trends of the past decade continue, two-thirds of them will be rearrested within three years. That failure rate is a clear and present threat to public safety. 
Not only is this revolving door a threat to public safety, but it results in an increasing burden on each and every taxpayer.

What those on the right don't seem to realize is that if you want to lock someone up and throw away the key, someone's got to foot the bill. Either you have to spend more money to run the state or you have to find the funds from someone else's basket.

Just as a student’s success isn’t measured by his entrance into high school but by his graduation, and a bridge’s value isn’t measured by its completion but by its long-term reliability, celebrating taking criminals off the street with little thought to their imminent return to society is foolhardy. 
The key to public safety and fiscal sanity is not just getting dangerous people off the streets but also making sure that men and women who eventually leave prison have changed and can stay crime-free on the outside.

Another thing the right wingnuts don't seem to think about is what to do with folks once they get out of prison. You can't just turn them back out on the street because they are virtually unemployable due to their criminal record. If you don't offer some type of assistance they will be forced to return to a life of crime just to survive.

Now, of course, the editorial then morphs into an advertisement for (yet another) religion-based organization with its hands out asking the state for funds.

But, aside from the plug, at least someone on the right of the political spectrum is looking beyond mere campaign rhetoric and actually asking how might a problem be solved. I may not care for Mr. Gingrich's politics in general, but, I do applaud his willingness to think outside the box when it comes to the problems in our criminal (in)justice system.

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