Conservatives are split on issues surrounding prison reform. But the debate is happening for a supremely conservative reason: because states have demonstrated it can work. In the current issue of National Affairs, Lars Trautman and Arthur Rizer provide a helpful survey of a red-state policy revolution. States such as Texas, Georgia and Louisiana have taken a series of measures to divert addicts and people with mental-health problems away from incarceration, to limit mandatory minimums and to make wider and better use of parole.
States have done more than apply a theory. They have demonstrated something practical, hopeful and remarkable. “This renaissance has been led in large part by deep-red Texas,” write Trautman and Rizer, “which, by instituting a series of ‘smart on crime’ initiatives in the last decade, accomplished a feat previously believed to be impossible: the simultaneous reduction of its crime, recidivism and incarceration rates.” While the crime rate index fell by 20 percent nationally from 2007 to 2014, it fell by 26 percent in Texas. The state, meanwhile, closed eight prisons.