Norquist Tells State Lawmakers To Revisit ‘Truth In Sentencing’

Conservative Activist Is On Tour Promoting Criminal Justice Reform

Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

Speaking in Madison on Tuesday, the prominent tax reform advocate Grover Norquist urged Wisconsin legislators to change its criminal justice laws.

Norquist is touring the country to promote the agenda of the conservative prison reform group Right on Crime. In Tuesday’s address, he told a bipartisan group of Wisconsin lawmakers that it’s time for the state to consider changing its “truth in sentencing” law. That law makes prisoners serve out most or all of their sentence, thereby curbing the use of parole.

Norquist urged lawmakers to follow the example of Texas, where changes to sentencing law have reduced prison populations enough to allow the state to close several facilities. He said Wisconsin should consider allowing inmates to shorten their sentences by getting a high school diploma.

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“Truth in sentencing is telling the people in a state, ‘When we say five years, we mean five years.’ But it could mean, ‘When we say five years, we mean five years — but four if you get a GED,’” said Norquist.

Norquist also called for reforms aimed at reducing recidivism, such as lifting restrictions that bar convicted felons from holding certain jobs.

Norquist was also on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Joy Cardin Show” earlier in the day, where he said the state should stop sending nonviolent 17-year-old offenders to adult prison.

“I think that that’s a very good first step in Wisconsin, entering the idea of reforming the criminal justice system. Let’s be tough on crime, but let’s be smart on how we punish it ,” he said.

A bill to to keep 17 year olds out of adult court has growing bipartisan support in the state Legislature.