ALEC Legislator of the Year Madden also a hit with ACLU for prison reforms
It’s hard to imagine the American Legislative Council — a free-market-backing marriage of state lawmakers and business — shares much of anything with the American Civil Liberties Union.
As Eric Bearse, a former speechwriter for Gov. Rick Perry said in the days before Perry’s prayer and fast rally last weekend, “Any time the ACLU is opposed to you, you must be doing something right.”
Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/JerryMadden-150x150.jpgState Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson
But the two groups have managed to find common ground in state Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Richardson.
At the close of its annual conference in New Orleans last Friday, ALEC named Madden its Legislator of the Year, an award given to lawmakers who, the organization said, have taken “a leadership role in advancing, introducing and/or enacting policies based on the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty.”
ALEC’s other lawmaker of the year was Arizona state Sen. Nancy Barto, who supported a back-door abortion ban limiting access to abortions motivated by race or sex, and has sponsored industry-supported legislation to**open Arizona’s health insurance market to companies licensed in other states**.
But Madden’s zeal for shrinking government has been channeled into one area progressives would like to shrink too: Texas’ massive criminal justice system. In its announcement, ALEC lauded Madden’s work with state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, to find “smart on crime” approaches to keep the state’s prison costs lower:
Owing to their joint success in changing the Texas tough “lock-em up and throw away the key” approach which didn’t deliver entirely constructive outcomes other than “construction” of more prisons, Whitmire and Madden were named by Governing magazine as one of eight Public Officials of the Year in 2010. As a consequence of probation and parole changes and investments in substance abuse treatment and similar diversion programs which began in 2007, a state prison will be closed for the first time in Texas history by the end of August.
Texas has become a national model for criminal justice reforms over the last four years, and an ACLU report released Tuesday named Madden among the prison reformers responsible for progress in recent years:
Bipartisan reforms in historically “tough on crime” states, including Texas, have significantly reduced incarceration rates, saved taxpayers billions of dollars, reduced crime rates and should be emulated nationwide.
“I am proud that Texas has made great strides in strengthening alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders,” said ACLU of Texas executive director Terri Burke in a statement. “It makes sense from a public health and safety standpoint, while saving Texas millions of dollars.”
**The report **quotes Madden before breaking down just how much money was saved by the reforms, introduced in 2007 as the “Whitmire/Madden Correctional Treatment and Diversion Plan.”
“We’re in the process of sharply turning the ship . . . to focus more on treatment of peoples’ problems so they can do their time and return to society as productive citizens,” the report quotes Madden in 2007. The series of new laws focused on increasing access to treatment and prison alternatives, which, according to the report, have kept 11,000 inmates out of Texas’ still-growing prison population.
Those reforms naturally appeal to small-government purists, too.
But as a series of recent stories have pointed out, the private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America has helped craft model bills for ALEC do exactly the opposite of what Madden and Whitmire have advocated: mandate tougher prison sentences and**expand police authority to arrest illegal immigrants like Arizona Senate Bill 1070**, which boost the demand for immigrant detention facilities.