Conservative support has given criminal justice reform a powerful bipartisan boost, reports USA Today. Since 2010, 13 states have revised sentencing laws, including traditionally red states Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia. Texas began diverting drug offenders from prisons in 2007 through drug courts, probation and treatment and has cut its incarceration total 11 percent. “Conservatives have long held the cards” to changing sentencing rules, says Adam Gelb of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project. “They had the tough-on-crime credentials … and it’s been much easier for them to step out and say ‘this isn’t working and we have to find a better way.”’
It has also brought together some very odd couples. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former National Rifle Association president David Keene, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), are among those supporting a measure in the Senate that would reduce mandatory sentences for drug offenses. Some both on the right and the left are skeptical about a sentencing overhaul. Prosecutors’ groups oppose it, arguing that tough sentencing laws have worked to reduce crime and also that they provide leverage to get low-level offenders to lead prosecutors to bigger fish. In January, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported the sentencing reform bill only after successfully adding amendments that would institute new mandatory sentences for sex crimes, domestic violence and terrorism.