‘Right on Crime’ brings new conservative criminal justice initiative to Oklahoma

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published 11-Mar-2011

Right on Crime, the group spearheading a new nationwide conservative criminal justice initiative has scheduled a press conference at the state Capitol Blue Room for Tuesday (March 15). Speakers will include Oklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele, Michael Carnuccio of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Right on Crime involves individuals from several conservative, libertarian and faith-based organizations. One is Patrick Nolan of Prison Fellowship, an organization formed by Charles Colson, formerly a Nixon White House aide, after his own experience serving time in prison. Like Colson, Nolan experienced time “on the inside,” leading him to years of introspection and reflection on American criminal justice policy. Today, he is a leading advocate of new approaches to old problems.

Nolan was one of several panelists discussing criminal justice reform at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the nation’s capital in February. At CPAC, conservative essayist Jon Basil Utley presented the Freda Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty to Nolan.

Right on Crime stresses “fighting crime, prioritizing victims, and protecting taxpayers.” The new focus was distilled in a Statement of Principles, which Utley credits to Nolan.

That document declares the criminal justice system, as an extension of the entire framework of American governance, must reinforce “order and respect for every person’s right to property and life,” while assuring “liberty does not lead to license.”

The Right on Crime statement of principles contends victims of crime should be at the center of the criminal justice equation as key “consumers” of justice. The statement argues prisons and corrections should be not only places of incapacitation, but also of safety, “personal responsibility, work, restitution, community service, and treatment.”

Offenders willing to reform and return to society should be transformed through “families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.” System accountability must align with both cost-effectiveness and public safety, and move away from “that grows when it fails.” Results matter. Don’t use crime, the Statement of Principles argues, as an excuse “to grow government and undermine economic freedom.” 

Many, but not all, of the groups involved in Right on Crime are, like Prison Fellowship, faith-based. The group has supported alternatives to incarceration for some crimes, and was influential in the development of new crime-fighting models in Texas and other states.

Texas was among the handful of states highlighted at the recent conference on Effective Criminal Justice Strategies in Oklahoma City. That seminar was covered in a series of stories by CapitolBeatOK.

Note: Patrick B. McGuigan is the editor of Crime and Punishment in Modern America, a compilation of essays that included analysis of alternatives to incarceration for non-violent crimes.