Conservatives Embrace Justice Reform in Capitol Hill Panel


Families Against Mandatory Minimums, an organization often viewed as taking the liberal side of criminal justice reforms, assembled a panel of conservatives on Capitol Hill yesterday to show support for the idea of cutting the nation’s prison population. One speaker, Asa Hutchinson, a Drug Enforcement Administration administrator under President George W. Bush, said that because effective government spending is a core conservative motivation, “It's okay for conservatives to look at criminal justice policy afresh and to see what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong. What is out there now that we can do that's more fair and right and without being afraid of being called soft on crime?”

Speakers urged reforms like alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent offenders; making last year's federal crack cocaine penalty changes retroactive, and scaling back or eliminating the “war on drugs.” Conservative activist Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said the proposed reforms may gain momentum not only because of tight budgets, but because of the willingness of conservatives to “have second thoughts on the whole issue” and bring credibility to the effort. FAMM president Julie Stewart called the criminal justice system “really just a big failed government program.”

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