CHICAGO (CBS) — Conservative and progressive groups seem to have found some common ground when it comes to criminal justice reform
Todd Belcore, lead attorney with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, a social justice group, said he’s not surprised conservatives at the Illinois Policy Institute agree too many people are being jailed too long for the wrong reasons.
“We’ve got a system right now with 14 percent decrease in our crime rate over the last several years, but we’re still having an increase in the prison population; such that it’s very clear that we have a system that doesn’t work,” he said.
Illinois Policy Institute criminal justice policy analyst Bryant Jackson-Green said a faulty justice system isn’t cost-effective
“Cost is certainly one issue, but also after a while you get to be concerned about when people come out of prison, and noticing how a criminal record can be one of the biggest barriers in achieving the American dream,” he said.
He said people released from prison find more and more businesses reluctant to hire ex-cons, which makes it more likely they’ll end up back in prison.
Previously, conservative activists might have taken a hard line “law and order” attitude about crime, but Jackson-Green said putting more people in prison for longer isn’t right, safe, or a good use of resources; and it doesn’t deter crime.
“I think that the conclusion many people across the political spectrum are coming to is … do the people we put in prison right now all need to be there?” he said.
Esther Franco-Payne, deputy director of the Illinois Justice Project, said progressive activist groups like hers now have a lot in common with conservative groups.
“Of course, those who commit the most violent crimes do need to be in prison, and when they are in prison, we would like for them to be effectively rehabilitated,” she said.
She said diversion programs are needed to keep lower-level cases out of the courts, and more needs to be done to help former inmates get and hold jobs.
The criminal justice system is the topic for this weekend’s edition of “At Issue,” airing Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM.