On October 5th, The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and its Right on Crime initiative hosted an event on criminal justice reform at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Washington, DC.

Marc Levin, vice president of criminal justice policy at TPPF, moderated the first of two panels which explored the role of technology in criminal justice reform.  Elizabeth Grossman, director of national partnerships and programs for Microsoft Cities Team, Malika Saada Saar, senior counsel on civil and human rights at Google, and the Honorable Scott Schlegel, judge for the 24th District Court in Louisiana, all contributed to the conversation. The panelists offered examples of how technology can be used to better connect individuals in the justice system to resources such as treatment programs. They also highlighted strategies for ensuring that technologies are implemented in a way that protects personal information and does not supplant those decisions and interactions that require human engagement but instead frees up more time for the activities that only people can perform.

The second panel examined legislative updates across the country that advanced criminal justice reform. John Koufos, national director of reentry initiatives for Right on Crime, moderated the conversation that featured Kelley Paul, wife of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), author, and criminal justice reform advocate, Trelaine Ito, a legislative aide for Senator Brian Schatz, Joe Luppino-Esposito, director of the rule of law initiatives at the Due Process Institute, and Greg Glod, manager of state initiatives for Right on Crime. Together, the panelists described the success of reforms in reducing crime and incarceration in states across the country and identified proposals now before Congress that would incorporate these evidence-based policies into the federal prisons system. Additionally, Mrs. Paul spoke about the crippling burden of fines and fees on people who cannot afford them.

The event ended with keynote speaker Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) who as a state representative in Georgia saw firsthand the benefits of reforms such as expanding drug courts. Congressman Collins explained that such reforms unite Americans because they not only enhance public safety but also provide a path to redemption, preserve families, and strengthen our workforce. As a co-author of the First Step Act, that overwhelmingly passed in the U.S. House earlier this year and is now pending in the Senate, he expressed confidence it would be sent to the President by the end of the year.

The event demonstrated that criminal justice reform has generated much momentum and that there are promising ways for leveraging new technologies to improve outcomes in the justice system. In a time when many issues have become polarizing, Right on Crime continues to unite individuals around the need for reform and to spread the message of human dignity. At Microsoft’s Innovation and Policy Center, this event furthered this mission through thoughtful and respectful dialogue.