Oct 09 2015
Last week I was honored to stand with several of my Senate colleagues to announce the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a bill that makes modest, but important and long-overdue, changes to our federal sentencing laws and penal system.
The bill expands federal judges’ now-limited discretion, so they can treat offenders like human beings, not statistics, and impose a punishment – neither too lenient nor too harsh – that fits both the crime and the criminal. And it improves the quality of our federal prisons – by increasing access to vocational training, therapeutic counseling, and reentry services – so that we have fewer first-time offenders turning into career criminals.
But perhaps the bill’s most distinctive feature is the bipartisan support it enjoys – a fact that some on the Right find disconcerting.
And in one sense, I can understand why.
After all, much of today’s government dysfunction is the product of the cooperation – one might say the collusion – among the two parties, twisting public policy to privilege economic and political insiders at the expense of everyone else, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable among us.
But this is not the case with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.
The truth is that this bill, and the movement for criminal justice reform that’s behind it, doesn’t call on conservatives to compromise our principles, but to fight for them.
Criminal justice reform properly understood represents principled conservatism at its best.
It’s about making our communities – the little platoons of service and cooperation at the heart of our republic – safe and prosperous and happy.
It’s about basing our laws, our court procedures, and our prison systems on a clear-eyed understanding of human nature – of man’s predilection toward sin and his capacity for redemption – along with an uncompromising commitment to human dignity."
"The truth is that this bill, and the movement for criminal justice reform that’s behind it, doesn’t call on conservatives to compromise our principles, but to fight for them."
Respect for the equal dignity of all human life – no matter how small or weak – and for the redemptive capacity of all sinners – no matter how calloused – is the foundation for everything that conservatives stand for. Our approach to policing and punishment should be no different.
Some crimes are so heinous, and some criminals so monstrous, that the only responsible and fair response is to prevent an offender from ever reentering the society that he has so routinely or so violently threatened.
But the reality is that almost every offender who goes to prison will one day get out. We do ourselves a disservice when an offender’s punishment does more to promote criminality than penitence.
This is why I’m involved – and invite you to join me – in the conservative movement for criminal justice reform.