Thanks to Scott Greenfield, I just found a new site that just might turn out to be a great source of things to blog about. It’s called Right on Crime, and it promises to be about “The Conservative Case For Reform: Fighting Crime, Prioritizing Victims, and Protecting Taxpayers.” With a tag line like that, something tells me they don’t have a lot of libertarians on their board.
Taking a look at their Statement of Principles, you can see the result, right in the first paragraph:
As members of the nation’s conservative movement, we strongly support constitutionally limited government, transparency, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. We believe public safety is a core responsibility of government because the establishment of a well-functioning criminal justice system enforces order and respect for every person’s right to property and life, and ensures that liberty does not lead to license.
Sigh. They’ve got two out of three of John Locke’s natural rights of man–life and property–but when it came to liberty, they just couldn’t quite commit to unconditional respect. They had to throw in that bit about ensuring that “liberty does not lead to license”…whatever that means. That’s the problem with the conservative law and order agenda in a nutshell: Not enough respect for freedom.
Now let’s look at a few of those principles:
Applying the following conservative principles to criminal justice policy is vital to achieving a cost-effective system that protects citizens, restores victims, and reforms wrongdoers.
1. As with any government program, the criminal justice system must be transparent and include performance measures that hold it accountable for its results in protecting the public, lowering crime rates, reducing re-offending, collecting victim restitution and conserving taxpayers’ money.
All that, and not a word about protecting innocent people from erroneous punishment. That is, after all, why we supposedly go through the trouble of having a justice system. Otherwise we could save ourselves a lot of money and just let the police beat the crap out of anyone they think might have done something wrong.
2. Crime victims, along with the public and taxpayers, are among the key “consumers” of the criminal justice system; the victim’s conception of justice, public safety, and the offender’s risk for future criminal conduct should be prioritized when determining an appropriate punishment.
Just once, I would like to see someone with a victims’ rights agenda explain why, if the victims are so important, we waste resources punishing people for victimless crimes.
3. The corrections system should emphasize public safety, personal responsibility, work, restitution, community service, and treatment–both in probation and parole, which supervise most offenders, and in prisons.
4. An ideal criminal justice system works to reform amenable offenders who will return to society through harnessing the power of families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.
Maybe this would be easier if we didn’t let violent gangs control the prisons? Prisoners need to be taught to follow society’s rules, not the rules of the prison yard. When a prisoner’s quality of life depends more on the mood swings of other inmates than on anyone working for the prison system, rehabilitation is going to be a steep uphill climb.
5. Because incentives affect human behavior, policies for both offenders and the corrections system must align incentives with our goals of public safety, victim restitution and satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness, thereby moving from a system that grows when it fails to one that rewards results.
Again, no mention of protecting the innocent, let alone the rights of the accused.
6. Criminal law should be reserved for conduct that is either blameworthy or threatens public safety, not wielded to grow government and undermine economic freedom.
I don’t know what that’s all about. What do they mean by “blameworthy”? Or maybe it’s better to ask what conduct they think should not come under criminal law?
Now here are a few principles I wish they’d mentioned:
- Reducing the number and magnitude of incidents in which the innocent are wrongly punished.
- Preventing the rights of free citizens from being infringed by government law enforcement employees.
- Swiftly and decisively punishing lawbreakers who act under color of authority.
- Preventing activist cops and prosecutors from stretching the criminal code to punish behavior which was never before considered illegal.
Or isn’t that the kind of out-of-control government that conservatives are worried about?
I don’t know. I’ll have to read more of the Right on Crime website. Maybe all that is in there somewhere…