Conservative leaders have a duty to govern with a bold commitment to the principles that best serve our citizens and communities. In 2018, the voters of Oklahoma put their confidence in Kevin Stitt, who received more votes than any gubernatorial candidate in Oklahoma history.
In just three short years, Stitt has proven that evidence-based policy and conservative reforms to the legal system will improve public safety and help make Oklahoma communities stronger.
Under his leadership, crime and recidivism rates have gone down because of the strong conservative policies. These policies also successfully lower the state’s prison population and reduce the state’s incarceration rates, ultimately saving Oklahomans millions of tax dollars.
With public safety and the rule of law paramount to Stitt’s initiatives, he signed conservative legislation that made retroactive State Question 780, which was previously passed with overwhelming support from voters. This voter-approved legislation reclassified simple drug possession and low-level property crimes as misdemeanors, creating more resources for investigating and locking up the most violent offenders.
Locking up those with whom we’re mad along with those of whom we should be afraid compromises public safety. And while no system is fool-proof, Stitt is committed to improvements that ensure Oklahoma’s tax dollars serve the best interest of Oklahomans. Stitt oversaw the largest single day commutation in our nation’s history, turning incarcerated individuals into taxpaying citizens and supplying more people for Oklahoma’s workforce.
First lady Sarah Stitt has exhibited tremendous leadership toward improving Oklahoma’s justice system, memorialized in the Sarah Stitt Act. It ensures that those involved with the legal system receive state identification, successful reentry and opportunity for gainful employment.
Under Stitt’s leadership and in partnership with Oklahoma Baptist University, inmates are able to receive a bachelor of arts degree in Christian studies and serve as field ministers to other inmates. Training and sending inmates to minister within the Department of Corrections is a unique educational and service opportunity: the first of its kind in Oklahoma.
As conservatives, we must never lose sight of the overarching goal for our nation’s criminal justice system: the promotion of justice, the rule of law and preservation of public safety. Just as we cannot compromise these goals to indulge our need to feel tough, we must resist vilifying these ideals.
During my 14-plus years as the Texas governor, I understood that the feeling of being tough on crime didn’t pay the bills.
Emotional and knee-jerk solutions failed to translate into actual public safety benefits. The “lock ‘em up” Texas system was filling prison beds and requiring Texans to pay for more prisons, which was economically unsustainable for a fiscally conscious government.
Moreover, it wasn’t making Texans safe.
In 2007, Texas was faced with a crisis of overcrowded prisons and a projected $2 billion demand to remedy this problem. Rather than trying to build and spend our way out of the problem, I and my conservative colleagues in the Texas Legislature enacted comprehensive, fiscally responsible reforms.
We invested $241 million into alternative sentencing, expanded access to parole and evidence-based programs aimed at improving the success rate for those reentering society or on supervision. As a result, 11 prisons closed while simultaneously reducing crime to the lowest since the 1960s. Instead of spending $2 billion, Texas has saved $4 billion.
I see the Texas reforms have proven tough on crime but soft on the taxpayer, as any conservative policy should be. Stitt, like my fellow Texas conservatives, gets this.
Texas is proof that conservative criminal justice reform is data-driven and creates taxpayers, not tax burdens. Conservatives in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Indiana, Utah and even the federal government have since followed Texas’ lead.
Conservatives must never compromise safety and fiscal responsibility for short-sighted policies gratifying the need to feel tough while failing as a means to this end.
I applaud Gov. Stitt for his principled, conservative leadership. Oklahoma is a safer and more just place to raise a family and pursue the American dream because of him.
Former U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry was the longest-serving governor of Texas.