A three-day conference, called âAdvancing Justice: An Agenda for Human Dignity & Public Safety,â was billed by one of its organizers as âtransideological.â The two governors who spoke at the conference â Democrat Jack Markell from Delaware and Republican Asa Hutchinson from Arkansas â did not come armed with press releases about new policies that they would be implementing.
Both governors talked about the progress theyâd made so far in implementing criminal-justice reform in their states. So far, the results are modest: A 3 percent drop in Delawareâs prison population and a little less than that in Arkansas. Yet Markell stopped the stateâs automatic ban on driverâs licenses for drug offenders and gave state judges discretion to impose concurrent sentences instead of the consecutive terms previously required.
âWe can lead by example,â Markell said triumphantly at a lunch address yesterday.
At dinnertime,Â Hutchinson told summit participants that he wanted to send a message to fellow Republicans that ârightsizingâ the justice system did not run counter to conservative values.
âFor years, conservatives only had one approach to the criminal-justice system: the tough-on-crime approach,â he said.
There were no Â grand proposals forÂ policyÂ change or announcements of newly minted research on issues covered during the meeting: overcriminalization, sentencing, policing, and alternatives to incarcerationâto name a few. Â Underlining organizersâ claim that the conference was nonpartisan,Â theÂ two-dozen panels and plenary sessionsÂ focused more on creating consensus than on fostering debate.