Texas Gov. Rick Perry appeared alongside other conservatives, including Grover Norquist, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., about how criminal justice reforms reforms are being pushed by several Republican states, the Washington Post reports. It was one of the few CPAC sessions that laid out a true pathway forward for a party that desperately wants to expand demographically. “We're not a soft-on-crime state, you know what I'm saying?,” said Perry. “We're tough on crime, but I hope we are also seen as a smart-on-crime state.”
Much of the Democrats' successful messaging in recent years has painted Republicans as obstructionist. But on issues of sentencing reform and prison recidivism, Republicans — especially several governors in Southern states — have been the leaders, earning praise from prison reform groups on both sides of the aisle for efforts to save money by implementing rehabilitation programs and curbing skyrocketing prison costs. “This is our chance to show we can provide solutions to affect significant problems,” said Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.