For Criminal Sentencing, a Conservative Alternative

Post Date: March 20, 2014

(The Advocate (Louisiana) Column: Quin Hillyer) — Lock the door and throw away the key. Or maybe not.

For decades, the let-’em-rot approach was how conservatives nationally and in Louisiana typically addressed issues of crime and punishment. But for less serious offenses, a growing conservative backlash has rallied support for more creative, constructive policies.

Louisiana legislators, drawing on the work of the conservative Pelican Institute in New Orleans and of the Louisiana Sentencing Commission, joined that trend this month by introducing a series of eight bills promoting alternative sentencing and rehabilitation. None of these bills contradict a “tough on crime” stance against serious offenders. Nor do they abandon the “broken windows” theories made famous by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who proved that enforcing penalties against “minor” offenses helps keep petty crime from growing into something worse.

For violent repeat offenders, conservatives can still support tough policies such as the “three strikes, you’re out” (life sentence, no parole) law first introduced in Congress in late 1993 by Louisiana’s then-Rep. Robert Livingston. For vagrants and vandals, police can still arrest them and maintain standards.

The difference is, for the latter and for other lesser criminals, the new approaches would involve not less enforcement but a change in how their penalties are meted out. The new bills do not represent a woolly-headed feel-goodism. Instead, they evince a highly practical attitude aimed at controlling costs and keeping communities safer. Read more