Norquist: 'Conservatives May Have Wanted More Incarceration Than Was Necessary'

While the U.S. has only about five percent of the world’s population, it has 25 percent of the globe’s prison population, owing in large part to policies implemented in the 1960s and 1970s that instituted often heavy sentences for non-violent drug offenders. As a result, corrections spending is now the second-fastest growing area of state budgets behind Medicaid.

Prisons, Right on Crime asserts, “serve a critical role by incapacitating dangerous offenders and career criminals but are not the solution for every type of offender. And in some instances, they have the unintended consequence of hardening non-violent, low-risk offenders – making them a greater risk to the public than when they entered.”

In a “call to action” released at this week’s session, Right on Crime further declared that prisons serve a critical role in society “but we can’t just build our way to public safety.”

“Low-level non-violent drug and property offenders can often be punished and held accountable in ways that aren’t as expensive as prison but that are more effective in helping them become law-abiding taxpayers rather than tax burdens,” the group said.

Conservatives “have often looked the other way regarding the growing cost and declining public safety benefits of a prison system that locks nearly one in every 100 American adults behind bars,” the group determined. “In our earnest desire to have safer neighborhoods, policy responses to crime have too often neglected core conservative values — government accountability, personal responsibility, family preservation, victim restoration, fiscal discipline, limited government and free enterprise.”