Ahead of President Obama’s final State of the Union Address, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist called for further action on criminal justice reform. In a comment to the Coalition for Public Safety, of which ATR is a part of, Mr. Norquist stated
“Decades of over-criminalization, over-regulation, and over-incarceration have done great harm to personal liberties and taxpayers. President Obama has one more year to reach out to Congress and act on legislation meant to roll back the encroachment of a prison system that has no signs of stopping its growth — even at the expense of public safety and hardworking taxpayers. Washington foot dragging has prevented solutions to problems like the abuse of the asset forfeiture system, and adequate intent protections for crimes, otherwise known as mens rea. Moreover, the unnecessary lengths of many drug sentences increase the risks of recidivism as they take up precious resources from law enforcement. Rather than waste billions in a broken and abusive system, it’s time to do what’s right for American taxpayers and public safety.”
Both chambers are currently debating their own proposals to deal with prison reform, sentencing, and mens rea issues. All of these have the potential to save the taxpayer millions while adding to national safety. So far, there has been bi-partisan support for all of these efforts.
Republicans in Congress and in the states have proven to be leaders in all of these areas. Stalwarts like Representative Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Ia.) have each introduced legislation in their respective chambers to reform sentencing, while Goodlatte has overseen the introduction of a sweeping mens rea reform package—which ATR has endorsed.
After seven years of a lackluster and damaging presidency, President Obama has an opportunity to work with Republicans on an issue of vital importance to public safety. Hopefully, this final State of the Union will avoid partisan attacks and create common ground to pass substantive conservative justice reform.