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States follow TX in prison reform movement

Thursday, February 1, 2018
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

inmates in orange jumpsuitsYou've heard about people being tough on crime or soft on crime, but how about "smart" on crime?

Safe Streets and Second Chances is an effort led by Koch Industries, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Right on Crime and other organizations.

Organizers call it an innovative initiative that takes a scientific approach to the chronic issues of repeat offenders and recidivism, using academic research to craft individualized reentry plans that shift the ultimate measure of the system's success from whether individuals are punished to whether these individuals are improved, rehabilitated, and capable of redemption.

"We think this is going to be a game change," says Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries. "Our goal to make sure that individuals come out of  prison better than they went in, so they don't reoffend and become someone who returned to prison."

According to Holden, that's a failing system that's been failing for too long.

"It costs us a lot of money, it doesn't make us safer, it disrupts families and communities," he claims. "So we want to take the best practices that we know and we think are out there, that the states have shown work, and apply them in this program."

Holden points to Texas as one example, which he credits for starting criminal justice reform.

"When someone breaks the law, they just don't put them in prison right away," he says. "They say, Is there a better way to deal with them Can they benefit from some other programs or probation or something less costly than going to prison?"

Asked about the "do the crime, do the time" argument, Holden says people who commit violent crimes deserve to be in prison for those offenses.

"But there are a number of people who don't need to be in prison," he responds. "And it won't help them. It'll probably make them worse and they aren't a threat to public safety. That's what we differentiating."

To date more than half the states have passed some type of criminal justice reform, and Holden says the states that have done it the best have smaller incarceration rates and less crime.

"That keeps communities safer, keeps law enforcement safer, and keeps families together, and it's really a smart on crime approach," he continues. "It's not tough on crime or soft on crime. It's smart on crime and soft on taxpayers."

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