Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich believes it is possible to create a bipartisan majority to “rethink” criminal justice. The Georgia Republican told the first national summit on justice reinvestment in San Diego Wednesday that “substantial aspects of sentencing and parole have to be rethought.” Speaking via Skype, Gingrich said politicians went too far with harsh prison sentences in the 1980s and 1990s. While defending a “very tough approach” to violent crime, he said he now realizes that long prison terms meant “destroying the future” for many offenders.
Speaking with Gingrich was Van Jones, founder of Rebuild the Dream, whose #Cut50 project aims to reduce the U.S. prison population by half over the next decade. Jones said there is a “bipartisan moment of opportunity” to reduce incarceration. He said Democrats have been reluctant to lead the effort because many still are afraid of being labeled soft on crime. Jones said he disagrees with Gingrich on most other policy issues, but he said “strange bedfellows” should form a new coalition for change. Gingrich said a “new generation” of Republican governors might take the lead. The summit gathered government leaders and others from 35 states to discuss justice reforms.