“The stars are in alignment” to pursue criminal justice reform in a way that wasn’t possible before the nation’s current economic crisis, David Keene, former chairman of the American Conservative Union, told a Capitol Hill forum yesterday. Keene said conservatives agreed with liberals that the justice system could reduce incarceration somewhat while still protecting society. Keene and several criminal justice experts addressed a meeting on criminal justice “lessons from the states” sponsored by The Constitution Project, which coordinated “Smart on Crime,” a 2010 publication of recommendations to the Obama administration and Congress on the subject. (www.besmartoncrime.org)
Keene signed a somewhat similar campaign mounted by conservatives called “Right on Crime.” Another speaker at the event, Rhode Island Corrections Director A. T. Wall, described how his state eased a prison-overcrowding problem in 2008 through a reform package agreed on by various criminal justice interests. Anne Morrison Piehl of Rutgers University endorsed the idea of providing more incentives to prisoners to find productive work. She said a Maryland pre-release center she has studied had been successful in such an effort. Also speaking at the session was former North Carolina Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, who discussed improving eyewitness identification procedures and providing more aid to public defenders.