When it comes to conservatives and crime their standard line is "law and order". Which for most libertarians it translates to making excuses for police abuses, prosecutor misconduct, overzealous judges and so on. Of course whenever someone points out these things, conservatives are quick to call you "soft on crime". However to be fair the only civil liberties that conservatives actually care about is gun rights and religion. Even then they're still hypocritical when it comes to gun rights.
So naturally when a conservative group pops up and bills itself as being for justice reform most if not all libertarians should be skeptical. So one can be the judge of Right on Crime using their priority issues page
Issue One: Overcriminalization
Thousands of harmless activities are now classified as crimes in the
United States. These are not typical common law crimes such as murder,
rape, or theft. Instead they encompass a series of business activities
such as importing orchids without the proper paperwork, shipping lobster
tails in plastic bags, and even failing to return a library book.
There are over 4,000 existing federal criminal laws. (The exact number
of laws is unknown because the attorneys at Congressional Research
Service who were assigned to count them ran out of resources before they
could complete the herculean task.)
In addition to the profusion of federal statutory crimes, there are
additional state crimes (Texas alone has over 1,700), and federal
regulatory offenses (approximately 300,000). The creation of these often
unknowable and redundant crimes, the federalization of certain crimes
traditionally prosecuted at the state level, and the removal of
traditional mens rea requirements all contribute to a relentless trend
known as overcriminalization.
• Stop creating new criminal offenses as a method of regulating
business activities. Regulation is better handled through fines and
market forces, not the heavy stigma of criminal sanctions
• Avoid licensing new occupations and revise laws to eliminate
criminal penalties that are currently associated with many occupations.
• Ensure that an appropriate culpable mental state is included in the elements of all offenses.
• Return the responsibility for prosecuting and punishing traditional crimes to the states.
• Revise criminal laws to remove ambiguities and consolidate redundant laws to help prevent prosecutorial abuse.
While getting the federal government out of areas where it doesn't belong is certainly a good step, keeping victimless crime laws on the books negates that benefit. State government thuggery is no better than federal government thuggery and if anything thuggery from state governments don't get as much exposure as federal scandals do. Under the Non-Aggression principal their has to be a victim in order for something to be a crime.
Issue Two: Juvenile Justice
Cost-effective interventions that leverage the strengths of families and
communities to reform troubled youths are critical to a successful
juvenile justice system. Youths who “slip through the cracks” may remain
in the criminal justice system throughout their lives even though some
could have been saved by effective policies during pivotal developmental
stages. However, funds should only be spent on programs that are
supported by evidence, and risk and needs assessment should be used to
ensure that youths who would be most successful in non-residential
programs are not placed in costly residential settings.
• Expand flexibility in funding, so that local jurisdictions may
spend funds now used for housing some of their youths in large state
youth lockups on less costly community-based programs supported by
research. Effective community-based models include multisystemic
therapy, victim-offender mediation, mentoring, vocational programs, and
group homes modeled after those in Missouri for youths that require a
• Implement evidence-based practices to increase the effectiveness of
juvenile probation and parole, such as graduated sanctions that respond
to each violation of the rules of supervision with a swift, sure, and
commensurate sanction. Graduated incentives should also be employed to
reward exemplary conduct. Research has demonstrated graduated responses
are far more effective because they send a clear message at the time of
the behavior rather than waiting for relatively minor violations to pile
up and then applying the ultimate sanction -- revocation to a youth
• Create policies so that youths are more likely to find employment
as adults, reducing the likelihood of recidivating. This may entail,
among others, providing additional opportunities for non-violent youth
offenders to expunge or decline to disclose records, removing barriers
for otherwise qualified applicants with a juvenile record from obtaining
occupational licenses, and emphasizing vocational training
opportunities for youth offenders.
• Streamline juvenile facilities so that cost savings may be
reallocated to other areas of juvenile justice that provide a greater
public safety return on the investment. Underutilized facilities,
particularly those which are remotely located away from families and
qualified treatment personnel, should be closed or consolidated.
• Improve school disciplinary policies so that more misbehavior is
corrected at an early stage in school and fewer students drop out or are
removed from school and enter the juvenile justice system. Proven
approaches include teen courts, community service learning, student
behavior contracts, student behavior accounts, and peer mediation.
• Implement policies that require reviews of sentences given to
people convicted of crimes committed under age 18 to determine whether,
years later, they are fit to return to society. Victims
should be notified about sentencing reviews, which will not guarantee
release, but will ensure tax dollars are not wasted on people who have
served time in prison for crimes committed as juveniles and no longer
pose a threat to society. This is a fair, cost-effective, age-
appropriate way to ensure that juveniles are held accountable for harm
they have caused, which offers them an opportunity to redeem themselves.
The only issue that I seem to have here is the lack of criticism of zero-tolerance policies that is rampant in most public schools which certainly doesn't bode with for students who have the occasional mishap. Once cannot deny that zero-tolerance doesn't have affect on students as they get older.
Issue Three: Substance Abuse
In 2006, the United States arrested approximately 1.89 million people
for drug-related offenses, up from 581,000 in 1980. Many of these
offenders were incarcerated for non-violent crimes. They were not
immediate threats to public safety, but it was in society’s best
interest to ensure that they stopped abusing drugs. Taxpayers are
entitled to ask whether incarceration is accomplishing that goal.
Drug courts are specialty courts with judges who impose supervision,
drug testing, treatment, and sanctions upon defendants in lieu of
incarceration. The reduced recidivism rates that result from the use of
drug courts benefit public safety, but drug courts can also reduce the
burden of incarceration on state budgets because they cost less—between
$2,500 and $4,000 annually per offender. Conservatives favor voluntary
drug courts because they provide options for those people who are
sincerely committed to taking responsibility to reform their lives.
For example, the HOPE (Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement)
program, started by a former federal prosecutor in Hawaii, conducts
frequent drug tests backed-up by swift and certain sanctions for
violations, usually a few days in jail. They have cut drug use by more
than 70% and arrests for new crimes fell by more than 50%. Moreover,
when offenders are participating in HOPE, they are taking up far fewer
prison beds, and Hawaii can prioritize the space for violent offenders.
The HOPE program recognizes that a drug court should not be a free
pass. Offenders in drug courts should remain under regular monitoring
to ensure that they hold jobs, receive treatment, and pay restitution if
they have been convicted of a property crime. As defendants complete
the rigorous program of the drug court, they remain outside of prison,
and therefore, they should be encouraged to hold a job and support their
families. There are many benefits to this system. Families stay
together more often. Children are provided for more often. Burdens on
social services systems such as foster care are alleviated. In some
cases, if offenders complete the drug court program to the satisfaction
of the judge and the person is not a threat to public safety and was not
involved in dealing drugs, the underlying offense can be removed from
their record, and thus does not harm their future employment prospects.
There are nearly 2,000 drug courts nationally, and the evidence
indicates that they work. The national recidivism rate of those who
complete drug court programs is between 4 and 29 percent. The control
group incarceration rate is 48 percent. Even those who enter drug
courts but do not complete their programs appear to have lower
recidivism rates. In the state of Texas, for example, where
approximately 100 drug courts are operating, the re-arrest rate for
those who begin but do not complete the drug court program is 40.5
percent, as compared to the 58.5 percent rate in the Texas control
In drug courts, America has found not only a solution to an important
public policy problem, it has hit yet again upon an essential
conservative truth – the power of personal responsibility and
accountability. Drugs courts are not suitable for every convicted
defendant, but neither is imprisonment.
The answer to any type of drug abuse crimes is to get rid of them completely. People should not be punished for ingesting whatever substance they want into their own bodies. The drug war is nothing but a colossal failure, a waste of money and a contributor to the militarization of domestic police forces. Drug courts is just a shuffling of resources which should be used in the prosecution of crimes with actual victims. As for the drain of social services, the solution to that is to get the state out of the social service business.
Issue Four: Adult Probation
When spending taxpayer money on criminal justice, it is
counterproductive and wasteful to enact policies that create more
criminals, rather than enacting policies that reduce the incidence of
crime. Taxpayers do not always benefit from sending low-risk offenders,
especially first-time nonviolent felons, to prison. In prison, the
offender is surrounded by other felons and removed from his family and
community. Because the offender is unable to work and earn income, he
may be unable to pay adequate restitution to the victim of the crime.
Moreover, when he is released, he will be forced to transition back to
life outside of prison, with the additional stigma of having been sent
to prison. If he does not transition effectively, the state will quite
possibly have transformed a low-risk nonviolent offender into a career
criminal. In effect, taxpayers will have spent more money to become
As Mark Earley and Newt Gingrich have noted,
“[j]ust as a student’s success isn’t measured by his entry into high
school but by his graduation…celebrating taking criminals off the street
with little thought to their imminent return to society is foolhardy."
• For low-level drug offenders with no violent prior crimes or sex
offenses, in lieu of incarceration consider requiring probation with
drug or psychiatric treatment.
• Research and utilize evidence-based best practices, such as risk
assessments, to determine which offenders are low-risk for recidivism
and thus better served by conditional probation.
• Enhance the use of problem-solving courts, such as drug courts, DWI
courts, etc. These courts can provide specialized oversight and
victim-offender mediation that present a low-cost alternative to
• Give victims the right, upon request, to be informed of relevant
proceedings, attend those proceedings, and express a preference to the
prosecutor on the type of sentence.
• Institute performance-based funding for probation departments.
Local probation departments that are successful should receive
additional funds in order to further develop their methods. Other
departments will adopt proven successful methods in order to qualify for
As stated above, eliminating the drug war eliminates alot of return offenders.
Issue Five: Parole and Re-Entry
"Reentry” is the term used to describe the process of reintegrating
criminal offenders back into their communities. A proper parole system
must include effective reentry programs. If not, a state will have spent
money to incarcerate and release an offender without making any effort
to limit his or her potential to re-offend. This would not serve public
safety interests, and it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.
• Use evidence-based methods, such as risk assessments, to determine who would benefit from parole and who would not benefit.
• Allow parole only for certain non-violent offenders, and encourage
the use of intermediate sanctions facilities, rather than prisons, for
these parolees when they commit technical violations rather than new
• Utilize GPS technology to monitor those on parole, which is more efficient and effective than phone check-in.
• Expand the use of ignition interlock devices for DWI offenders who are on parole.
• Implement cost-effective technologies (such as bracelets) which
monitor blood-alcohol levels through an offender’s sweat and
continuously send the results back to parole officers. Also, consider
requirements that offenders regularly be tested for sobriety in-person
(e.g., South Dakota's 24-7 Sobriety Program).
• Reduce the potential tort liabilities to employers for negligent
hiring suits. Reduced tort liability will make employers more likely to
hire parolees. Statistics show that parolees with good, steady jobs are
less likely to reoffend.
Its good to know that conservatives are consistent with their dislike for the fourth amendment so this isn't all that surprising. If conservatives want to abuse a person's fourth amendment rights, then why let that person out of prison, seems counter-productive.
Issue Six: Law Enforcement
CompSTAT, which stands for Computer Statistics or Comparative
Statistics, was launched in New York City and is perhaps the best-known
technological innovation in law enforcement. CompSTAT has two
components. The first is software-intensive, and it uses real-time crime
data to quickly allocate police resources to crime “hot spots” in
cities. The second element, which concerns managerial techniques,
decentralizes authority to precinct commanders and holds them
accountable for changes in the crime rate within their jurisdiction.
City police leaders meet with commanders on a frequent basis to discuss
data findings and to plan patrol activity. These methods increase the
number of criminals apprehended, but perhaps more importantly, studies
suggest that the strong and visible police presence has a deterrence
effect. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani partly credits CompSTAT
with the 62 percent drop in the crime rate in New York from 1993 to
Another well-known – but not widely enough adopted – technology is
Chicago’s Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR). The
CLEAR database contains millions of incident reports and other
information that officers can query using wireless, touchscreen
notebooks in their cars. The data allows officers to instantly check
suspects against the database of fugitives, parolees, and offenders who
are wanted on warrants. A mug shot, for example, can be accessed in just
seconds – rather than four days. Most significantly, CLEAR empowers
community policing. Citizens use a website to find out who is policing
their neighborhood so that they can efficiently relay leads about
criminal activity. Chicago’s murder rate dropped from 22.1 per 100,000
in 2002 to 15.5 in 2004 following the implementation of CLEAR. The
number of robberies has also declined nearly 30 percent from 2000 to
2007. Because fewer Chicagoans have been incarcerated since 1999, it is
not incarceration that is yielding results. More likely, it is Chicago’s
innovations in law enforcement, including CLEAR.
• Increase the utilization of data-driven policing and related performance measures such as CompSTAT and CLEAR.
• Involve private security in data-driven policing to expand the knowledge base and expedite responses.
• Expand the use of GPS monitoring of parolees and probationers.
Until conservatives actually decide to address or at the very least acknowledge the increased militarization of police forces any calls for reform are as empty as an Obama speech. While police smarter would be a significant improvement in general the massive lack of accountability of police officers (and prosecutors for that matter) who abuse their power is still the elephant in the room.
Issue Seven: Prisons
Prisons serve a critical role in society. In many cases – particularly
cases of violent crime – the best way to handle criminal behavior is to
incapacitate criminals by incarcerating them. Prisons are supremely
important, but they are also a supremely expensive government program,
and thus prison systems must be held to the highest standards of
• Understand that to be considered “successful,” a prison must reduce recidivism among inmates.
• Increase the use of custodial supervision alternatives such as
probation and parole for nonviolent offenders. In many cases, these
programs can also be linked to mandatory drug addiction treatment and
mental health counseling that would prevent recidivism. States' daily
prison costs average nearly $79.00 per day, compared to less than $3.50
per day for probation.
• Consider geriatric release programs when appropriate. Approximately
200,000 American prisoners are over the age of fifty. The cost of
incarcerating them is particularly high because of their increased
health care needs in old age, and their presence has turned some prisons
into de facto nursing homes for felons – all funded by taxpayer.
• Consider eliminating many mandatory minimum sentencing laws for
nonviolent offenses. These laws remove all discretion from judges who
are the most intimately familiar with the facts of a case and who are
well-positioned to know which defendants need to be in prison because
they threaten public safety and which defendants would in fact not
benefit from prison time.
• For those instances when prisons are necessary, explore private prison options. A study by The Reason Foundation
indicated that private prisons offer cost savings of 10 to 15 percent
compared to state-operated facilities. By including an incentive in
private corrections contracts for lowering recidivism and the
flexibility to innovate, private facilities could potentially not just
save money but also compete to develop the most cost-effective
recidivism reduction programming.
One of the reasons why prison populations have grown and prisons have become is the drug war among other victimless crimes. In this Reuters article, the author goes into detail on how prison populations are littered with offenders that were charged with having a non-government approved substance with them.
Privatization of prisons is an interesting topic in libertarian circles. While most will agree that government run prisons are not run efficiently if not out right poorly that doesn't mean private prisons should be given the green light. While tax payers might be saving money if a private company where to run prisons there is the danger of seeing a repeat of the Kids for Cash scandal of Pennsylvania.
George Donnelly goes into further detail about private vs government prisons. While I disagree with him on that prisons should exist. I believe there needs to be a place to hold violent criminals, he does make some good points.
Issue Eight: Victim
When a property crime or a violent crime occurs, the primary
aggrieved party is the individual victim, not the government, and thus
the compensation should go primarily to the individual victim, not the
government. This idea has been around for centuries, and the concept is
found in the sacred texts of nearly every major religion. In the
modern world, however, we have drifted away from this essential truth. A
telling example is the “style” of criminal cases, which are written as
‘Defendant v. [The State],’ rather than ‘Defendant v. [Victim.]’ The
case styles reveal that our system now focuses more on prosecuting
defendants for the harm they have done to society at large, rather than
the harm they have done to their victim. It is important to pay
attention to the effect crime has on society, but we must not neglect
the victim’s rights.
In the investigation and prosecution of crimes, victims must be
included at every stage and meaningfully empowered. Opportunities for
more informal restorative practices should also be considered for
non-violent first time offenses.
Informal restorative practices are not likely to displace the modern
criminal justice system, due to factors such as population growth,
urbanization, and the transient nature of many modern communities.
Nevertheless, a growing body of evidence indicates the benefit – to
victims, taxpayers, and offenders – of integrating practices designed to
empower and restore victims into today’s criminal justice process.
• The criminal justice system should be structured to ensure that
victims are treated with dignity and respect and with the choice to
participate, recieve restitution, and even be reconciled with first time
• In appropriate cases, enable crime victims to choose pretrial victim-offender mediation.
• Expand victims’ access to offenders’ funds by lowering exemption
thresholds that apply to restitution orders when they are converted into
• Use amount and share of restitution actually collected as a performance measure for probation and parole systems.
Not much I can disagree with here. Any type of compensation the criminal has to pay out to the victim should go to the victim alone and not the government. Government shouldn't get a cut of the compensation for just doing it's job in prosecuting justice.
Overall while Right on Crime has some good ideas on reforming a very broken justice system it leaves holes to be desired and doesn't go far enough.