by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The results of the Texas model are difficult to ignore: The state’s prison population declined by 14 percent and, even more importantly, crime rates dropped by 29 percent.
One might argue that crime rates were dropping all over the country at the time — which is true — but if one were to listen to those in rabid opposition to justice reform, wouldn’t the reverse have happened? Instead, Texas now has its lowest crime rate since 1968 and recidivism is 9 percent less than before Texas’s 2007 reforms.
The results were so encouraging that other states sought to replicate Texas’s success. Most of the states that have moved on substantive justice reform are traditionally conservative ones. More than two dozen states — including Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina — have passed justice-reform packages.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until multiple Republican-controlled states moved on the issue that traditionally blue states felt that they could: They all waited for red states to move first. Hawaii, Oregon, and Rhode Island, three of the most progressive states in the country, followed the lead of conservative states. Since then, even more red states — including Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah — have passed justice reform.
Red states, and Texas in particular, provided a blueprint for other states to follow while Barack Obama was still the junior senator from Illinois. In fact, today, a Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, is spearheading long overdue justice reform in the Land of Lincoln.