Collaboration needed in criminal justice reform
BY J.C. WATTS

On Monday, I am honored to discuss the importance of criminal justice reform with the outstanding group of local, state and federal legislators at the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) conference in Oklahoma City. Our country’s unparalleled incarceration rates have come at a significant cost to public safety and fiscal health, and they’ve had a devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities across Oklahoma and the entire country.

As chairman of the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, a congressionally mandated blue-ribbon task force on federal corrections reform, I have spent this past year focusing on reforms to our federal system by examining states that have achieved success.

Across the country, the most significant progress has been made through bipartisan collaboration. States, including traditionally “tough on crime” states such as Texas and Georgia, have led the charge in improving their justice systems by sticking to the facts and setting aside political differences. They’ve examined the causes of this incarceration crisis, its impact on public safety and public costs, and potential solutions. The resulting reforms have yielded substantial savings without increasing crime rates.

My own experience representing Oklahoma in Congress has shown me that true collaboration is about more than sponsoring legislation with members across the aisle. Collaboration also means challenging members of your own party, and challenging yourself, to think outside the box.

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