Juvenile Justice Bridges Right, Left

A conservative think tank in Texas and the ACLU may seem to have little in common. But they and other conservative, liberal and nonpartisan groups are working — successfully — on juvenile justice law changes that are putting minors firmly in juvenile court, out of incarceration with adults and in community-based rehabilitation. “There’s a great opportunity for collaboration across the aisle on this issue,” said Marc Levin, senior policy advisor at Right on Crime. The Right on Crime initiative started in 2010 inside Austin’s Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative think tank.  Right on Crime evaluates adult and juvenile corrections reforms through a lens of effectiveness and cost savings and promotes its findings in other states.  For the last few years, as state revenues shrink and budgets must be slashed, the Texans’ money-saving ideas are catching more ears.

On Juvenile Detention, a Place Where the Right Meets the Left

Today’s problems with an overcrowded and aging prison population are in part a direct result of efforts in the 1980s and ‘90s to “get tough” on crime. Several strategies were adopted across the United States that were intended to protect society and send a message to would-be criminals. Mandatory minimum sentences, increased penalties, removal of parole for certain crimes and life without parole were all part of the plan. Juvenile criminals were also included in this crusade against crime. Many of the laws passed in relation to juvenile crime were based on the now discredited “super predator” theory put forth by John DiLulio of Princeton University and James Fox of Northeastern University.

Right on Crime and the Conservative Focus on Juvenile Justice

For years, many people have considered juvenile justice reform a dyed-blue plank in the liberal platform. However, deep in the heart of the red state of Texas, one conservative organization has adopted the issue as a major policy concern heading into the 2012 election season. “The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a free-market, state-based think tank,” said Marc A. Levin, Director of the organization’s Center for Effective Justice. The Austin-based organization [texaspolicy.com], originally founded in 1989, implemented a criminal justice emphasis in 2005. In 2010, the organization began its Right On Crime campaign, which Levin considers “a national platform for reform.” Several prominent conservative politicians and analysts — among them, Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush and William J. Bennett — have all signed onto the campaign’s statement of principles.

Texas Under Rick Perry Makes Strides in Juvenile Justice Reform, say Advocates

Under Gov. Rick Perry, Texas’ juvenile justice system has seen a dramatic transformation from a system plagued by a sexual abuse scandal to one of the most progressive systems in the nation, say long-time advocates in the state. Texas, one of the country’s most conservative states, succeeded in reforming the system by finding a common goal for both the left and the right, even if they took different paths to get there. “In Texas,” said Deborah Fowler, deputy director of Texas Appleseed, “we have been lucky to have a very conservative organization,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), “advocate for many of the same juvenile justice reforms that organizations like

Newt Gingrich Among Conservatives Backing NAACP Prison Reform Report

Former Georgia congressman turned Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is among a group of big name conservatives supporting a new NAACP study pushing for a major criminal justice system overhaul. The former U.S. House speaker has joined other fellow conservatives in promoting the civil rights organization’s latest report, highlighting racial disparities in incarceration rates and the imbalance between prison funding and education spending around the country. Dubbed “Misplaced Priorities,” it asserts there is an inverse relationship between exploding prison budgets and massive cutbacks in public higher education funding. “Over the past 20 years, nationwide spending on higher education increased by 21 percent, while corrections funding increased by 127 percent,” said Robert Rooks, director of NAACP Criminal Justice Programs. “Even during the recession, education budgets dropped while a majority of states have continued to increase the amount they spent on prisons. During that same time we’ve seen higher education costs in states being shifted to working families.”

Rooks said it is time for a major paradigm shift in regards to the nation’s criminal justice practices.