Georgia is the latest example of a Republican-led state drive to replace tough-on-crime dictums of the 1990s with a more forgiving and nuanced set of laws, says the Wall Street Journal. GOP legislators and, in most case, governors who once favored stiff prison terms are leading reforms in Texas, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and South Dakota. Budget pressures and burgeoning prison costs have spurred new thinking.
Some advocates point to data showing that harsh prison sentences often engender more crime. Among the key backers are conservative Christians talking of redemption and libertarians who have come to see the prison system as the embodiment of a heavy-handed state. And crime rates are falling nationally, a trend that has continued in most of the states putting fewer people in jail. The movement also dovetails with the quest of some Republicans to soften the party’s edges.