"You wouldn't necessarily expect–and certainly the establishment press doesn't expect–to hear a discussion about criminal justice reforms and prison reform at the Conservative Political Action Conference," stated Americans for Tax Reform Founder Grover Norquist. "But in point of fact this is a big problem, it's an expensive problem, [and] it's a problem that creates more expensive problems."

During a Friday morning session at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the biggest annual gathering of right-leaning activists, Norquist, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, laid out their vision for conservative criminal justice reform, highlighting a number of successful state-based initiatives implemented by Republican governors.

"We are not a soft on crime state, but I hope we get the reputation of being a smart on crime state," Gov. Perry explained.  "We shut a prison down last year. That is the message all across this country. You want to talk about real conservative governance, shut a prison down."

Following the session, Reason Magazine's Matt Welch visited the exhibition booths for Right on CrimeFamilies Against Mandatory Minimums, and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, to get a sense of what was driving the undercurrent of interest in these issues, what sort of reception reform proponents are finding at CPAC, and the prospect of legislative cooperation with like-minded Democrats. 

Produced by Meredith Bragg

Approximately 4 minutes. 

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