Louisiana and Indiana are among new states considering conservative-backed sentencing reform, says the Los Angeles Times. The package can include reduced sentences for drug crimes, more job training and rehabilitation programs for nonviolent offenders, and expanded alternatives to doing hard time. The trend started a few years ago in Republican-dominated Texas, where prison population growth has slowed and crime is down. South Carolina adopted a similar reform package last year. A conservative group has identified 21 states engaged in some aspect of what it considers to be reform, including California.
Corrections is the second-fastest growing spending category for states, behind Medicaid, costing $50 billion annually and accounting for 1 of every 14 discretionary dollars, says the Pew Center on the States. The crisis affects both parties, and Democratic leaders also are looking for ways to reduce prison populations. Conservatives have been working most conspicuously to square their new strategies with their philosophical beliefs — and sell them to followers long accustomed to a lock-’em-up message. Much of that work is being done by a new advocacy group called Right on Crime, which has been endorsed by conservative luminaries such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.former Education Secretary William Bennett, and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.