When it comes to prison reform, Eric Holder might just have a point. Skeptical? Read these two quotes:
You want to talk about real conservative governance? Shut prisons down. Save that money. Stop the recidivism rates—lower them. That’s what can happen with these drug courts.
This overreliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.
The first quote comes from Republican Governor Rick Perry, and the second from Attorney General Eric Holder.
This year at CPAC, Rick Perry, Grover Norquist, and former police commissioner and federal inmate Bernie Kerik took on prison reform. Their panel discussion highlighted the problems with our prison system – the very same problems Holder wants to fix by lowering minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses:
“We’ve got to create alternatives, and we have to stop putting people in prison that don’t necessarily have to be there to learn their mistake,” Kerik said.
Holder agrees. He wants to “reserve the most severe penalties for dangerous and violent drug trafficking” instead of spending money incarcerating minor drug users.
Kerik said that he met good, decent men in prison, whose lives were ruined because of a felony drug charge. If incarcerated at a young age, a man could spend ten years in prison, learning to lie, steal, cheat, and gamble, and not receiving any education or outside positive influence. Once that man gets out, Kerik said it should be no surprise he doesn’t live like an upstanding citizen. In that case, prison does more harm than good.
Because of this, Holder wants to reduce the sentences for minor drug charges by about a year, which would take 6,550 inmates out of prisons over the next five years, according to the Washington Post.
Rick Perry should be celebrating this proposal, since Texas managed to shut down a prison because of similar legislation. As should Kerik, who was released from prison last year after serving time for dodging taxes, and has since been rallying against minimum sentences and “law and policy dooming felons who’ve paid their debts to second-class citizenship.”
Not to mention these changes would significantly cut spending, something conservatives love:
The attorney general said his initiative would save the government billions of dollars and stop what he calls a destructive cycle of drug abuse, crime and incarceration. The United States, including state and local jurisdictions, spends nearly $83 billion each year on corrections. The federal government alone spends $6.4 billion annually to maintain its prisons, accounting for 25 percent of the Justice Department’s annual budget.
Rallying with Eric Holder might seem like treason to some, but finding ways to cut spending and change dangerous cycles that prohibit the protection of citizens should be a bipartisan effort. In a world where Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything, some common ground is like an icy beverage in July.