America's stupid and counterproductively harsh criminal justice system is difficult to reform because politicians are terrified as being seen as "soft on crime." It's a system that can't be reform until the conservative side -- the side with the inherent tough on crime credibility with voters -- agrees to reform it. Reformers have been waiting for a sign that the right is ready to reconsider sentencing and prison policy, and now it's here. Anti-tax maven Grover Norquist has a manifesto today:
When it comes to education, pensions, health care, Social Security, and hundreds of other government functions, conservatives are a beacon for fiscal responsibility, accountability, and limited government — the very principles that have made this country great. However, when it comes to criminal-justice spending, the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” mentality forces conservatives to ignore these fundamental principles.
With nearly every state budget strained by the economic crisis, it is critical that conservatives begin to stand up for criminal-justice policies that ensure the public’s safety in a cost-effective manner.
This is a significant development.