Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has joined the list of prominent conservatives who have endorsed the Statement of Principles of the Right on Crime campaign. The announcement was made on Wednesday. Right on Crime is a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) in partnership with the American Conservative Union Foundation and Justice Fellowship and seeks to promote criminal justice reforms from a conservative perspective.
The news marks an important moment in Right on Crime’s history, for it was under Perry’s tenure as Governor of Texas that many of the reforms were passed that now make up the foundation of the conservative criminal justice movement, and Right on Crime released a statement acknowledging Perry’s role:
The movement to reform underperforming and wasteful criminal justice programs had its origins in Texas under the leadership of Governor Perry in 2005; its success has been duplicated and continues to serve as a model for effective policies around the country. In recent years, states like Mississippi, South Dakota and Georgia have led the way in implementing correctional reforms that save tax dollars and more effectively promote public safety.
Over his fifteen years as Texas’ longest serving Governor, Perry supported and signed into law multiple reforms, including expanding alternatives to incarceration like drug treatment programs and community supervision for low risk and first time non violent offenders, and directing more resources towards probation and parole monitoring.
The 2007 reforms marked a significant moment in criminal justice policy in Texas. Due to a high incarceration rate and a rapidly growing population, the Legislature was faced with either having to build 17,000 new prison beds at a cost of over half a billion dollars, or institute reforms that would have a positive effect, and quickly. The Legislature, with the support of Perry, put together several bills that significantly built on prior reform efforts, directly hundreds of thousands of dollars to drug treatment programs, alternatives to incarceration, probation monitoring, and other reforms.
The end results were successful beyond what even the most optimistic reform advocates had hoped. Texas was able to not only avoid building any new prisons, it even closed three of them, saving the state over $2 billion — even with the funds spent on the new and expanded programs.
Most importantly, the drop in Texas’ incarceration rate was done without any corresponding detriment to public safety. Texas’ crime rate is currently the lowest it has been since 1968, and violent crime, property crime, and recidivism rates across the board have all gone down.
In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, Perry explained why he supported Right on Crime’s mission, saying that they were “focused on helping people understand why a big, expensive prison system—one that offers no hope for second chances and redemption—isn’t conservative policy.” Perry touted how they had closed three prisons, saved taxpayers billions, and lowered the crime rate.
“My administration started treatment programs and drug courts for people who wouldn’t be served well by sitting behind bars,” added Perry. “We made sure our parole and probation programs were strong. Most of all, we evaluated prisons based on whether they got results. Did an ex-offender get locked up again? Did he get a job? Is he paying restitution to his victims? In Texas, we believe in results.”
“Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation have been at the forefront of conservative criminal justice reform,” he concluded. “So I’m proud to join my friends at Right on Crime who have helped make Texas safer while shrinking government.”
“Both Republicans and Democrats are talking about criminal justice, but very few elected officials have made the kind of impact on criminal justice issues that Rick Perry has,” said Brooke Rollins, TPPF’s President and CEO. “As Governor, he was responsible for the sweeping reforms that, in addition to lowering crime rates and saving taxpayers money, made ‘the Texas model’ on criminal justice—as well as the Right on Crime campaign—possible. That model is the great example we’ve been able to tout across the country. We look forward to his continued leadership on this issue.”
The timing of Perry’s endorsement of the Right on Crime campaign is fortuitous. Because Right on Crime does not accept current elected officials or current political candidates as new signatories, Perry was not eligible to join while he was still Governor, and while he is widely assumed to be preparing a second Presidential campaign, he has not officially thrown his hat in the ring yet.
Other signatories to Right on Crime’s Statement of Principles include the late founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries Chuck Colson, former Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich, Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, FoxNews’ Monica Crowley, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and many other prominent conservative former elected officials and thought leaders.
[Disclosure: Sarah Rumpf was previously employed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.]
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.