Free-Market Groups Focus On Criminal Justice Investments


The State Policy Network, an organization of “free market state-focused” think tanks, devoted a half day of a session in Washington, D.C., yesterday, to “Doing Justice by Free Market Principles.” Speakers generally agreed that conservatives and liberals could coalesce around ways to make the criminal justice system return more on the tax money invested in it. Former Attorney General Edwin Meese said state organizations should initiate criminal-justice “audits” that include a cost-benefit analysis of programs. More attention should be paid to corrections because “we don’t want better educated criminals,” Meese said. He cited prisoner re-entry efforts as the “most important crime prevention” actions being conducted by government. Pat Nolan of the Justice Fellowship urged “holding corrections departments accountable for correcting behavior” and “keeping people safe.”

A key public policy question on crime is being reframed from how to be toughest on crime to “how can we deliver to taxpayers the best return on their investment?,” said Adam Gelb of the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project. Gelb said corrections costs are eating up a larger percentage of state budgets in a time of economic uncertainty. Texas State Rep. Jerry Madden described how his state has avoided the need for a large prison expansion, and Michael Jacobson of the Vera Institute said the current economic crisis could help shape a “historic moment for reform” in corrections. Jacobson focused on parole enforcement as a “significant driver of prison population.”


Comments are closed.