Attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C., were greeted this year, as in years past, by advocates pushing for looser sentencing laws and reducing mass incarceration. Groups like the American Conservative Union Foundation hope to convince more people on the political right to embrace the cause as a conservative one by leveraging their recent successes at the state level and reminding lawmakers that it’s an issue with support from several conservative groups, BuzzFeed News reports. “I do feel that letting politicians know that we are large in numbers and we do support this, and we are present at all of these events, we’re not going to go away; it’s something that’s important and it’s […] a part of the conservative movement,” says Christina Delgado of the conservative group FreedomWorks.
Derek Cohen of Texas-based Right on Crime, which is also attending CPAC, says, “You do have people that have a bit more of a reactionary tough-on-crime approach that have come up to the booth and talked to us about it. But once you start talking to them about .. the practicalities of running a criminal justice system, they actually get it very quickly.” The American Conservative Union Foundation moderated two panels at CPAC on Friday: “Prosecutors Gone Wild,” which included arguments for mens rea requirements in federal offenses, and “Conservatives Leading the Way on Criminal Justice Reform in State Capitals.” Steve Hawkins of the Coalition for Public Safety, another CPAC attendee, said that, “As President Trump considers how best to reduce crime and restore public safety, we hope that he can learn from reform champions in states like Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kentucky.”