The following remarks from Kevin Roberts, Ph.D. are posted as they were prepared for delivery.
Welcome, everyone. I’m Kevin Roberts, Executive Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Thank you to Senator Mike Lee for hosting us today. Thank you to President Trump – and also Jared Kushner – for leadership that brought us to this moment. Thank you to many members of the House and Senate who have served as tireless champions for this cause. And thank you to the scores of allies across the country who have been fighting for reforms for many years. Your work is paying off.
We are on the brink of a historic moment for public safety. For years, our prison system grew in spending and declined in results. Conservative principles were not applied to our corrections system. But then things started to change.
11 years ago in Texas, we were facing a crisis—both in our budget and our prison system. With the strong conservative leadership of Rick Perry, we charted a new path.
Investing in treatment beds and strengthening our probation and parole systems allowed prosecutors more flexibility in finding the right sentence to fit the crime. The prison population dropped while recidivism and reoffending also dropped. Most importantly Texas is now seeing its lowest crime rate since 1966.
This is why all of us here today are proud to say that this is truly conservative reform.
We as conservatives share common goals. We want strong communities and institutions. We want those who have done wrong to be punished, and then to seize their own redemption without state interference. Most of all, we want safe neighborhoods that allow each and every member of society to flourish.
That is why we are gathered here in support of the First Step Act. Modeled after the successful reforms enacted by conservative legislatures in states like Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, this piece of legislation represents a modest – though sorely needed – shift to reduce recidivism. With 95 percent of inmates returning to our communities, it is incumbent on our corrections system to get it right and get it right the first time. Failing to do so is simply too dangerous.
Today, you are going to hear some brief remarks from across the conservative movement; from fiscal conservatives, to faith leaders, to philanthropists, to elected officials, and law enforcement. Each of us recognizes that conservative governance leads to the best outcomes for society, and that this applies doubly for our prison system.
Starting us off will be Senator Mike Lee from the great state of Utah.