Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint explained the ways criminal justice reform is compatible with conservative ideology as he addressed a Washington D.C., crowd Thursday morning.
DeMint, speaking at the Charles Koch Institute’s Advancing Justice conference, argued that conservative beliefs on limited government and the value of the individual align with reforming the country’s criminal justice system.
“To me, the core of conservatism is the dignity of every individual and the value of every life. That’s why we talk about individual freedom and self-reliance and personal responsibility. That’s why we talk about limited government because limited government tends to yield more personal freedom. But the value of the individual is key,” DeMint explained. “And in America, we just have entirely too many people in prison. And we know that those things we care about, certainly personal freedom and opportunity, a lot of that is not only diminished but sometimes lost for life once people are thrown in prison.”
DeMint pointed to data showing that locking up the low-level, non-violent offender often turns them into a more hardened criminal, an issue conservatives should be concerned about.
“They were not violent before, but they were when they came out,” DeMint said. “It’s counter productive to the goals here :the loss of individuals, the loss of lives, the productivity. So society loses, families lose, but that individual loses the value of their life. So every conservative should see this as something they not only care about but also that they’re passionate about.”
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