Incoming State Attorney from Florida, South Carolina Head of Corrections, and Massachusetts Sheriff Outline Their “Law and Order” Approach to Justice Reform


The Coalition for Public Safety and the U.S. Justice Action Network, the largest bipartisan organizations working to reform the justice system on the state and the federal level, hosted a forum on Tuesday with Congressman Doug Collins and law enforcement experts from Florida, South Carolina, and Massachusetts, focused on how a “Law and Order” approach to criminal justice includes smart justice reform, strengthens public safety, and saves taxpayer dollars.


U.S. Representative Doug Collins (R-GA), who as a member of the House Judiciary Committee has championed bipartisan justice reforms including sponsoring the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, shared his take on how Congress can shape the justice system.


In his keynote address, Congressman Doug Collins said: “At the end of the day when the sun goes down, when we are all called to give an account for our short time here, I believe the question will be asked of us all: did you try and make it better? What you are doing here, and what this organization gives is the chance for each of us to look up and say we did it, we tried. And not only did we try, we made it better. Your work matters.”


Following the keynote address, Arthur Rizer, Policy Director & Senior Fellow at R Street Institute, moderated a panel discussion with Melissa W. Nelson, State Attorney Elect for Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit; Bryan P. Stirling, Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections; and Peter J. Koutoujian, Sheriff of Middlesex County, Massachusetts.


“People want to know that the system is fair,” said Melissa W. Nelson, State Attorney Elect for Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit. “We learn that as children. We all need to feel that our processes are fair. Our justice system shouldn’t be an exception The climate is right for reform, and I, personally, am excited to be part of this discussion and the solution.”


“Today’s forum highlighted the continued dialogue of criminal justice agencies to coordinate their resources and knowledge to improve the overall goal of reducing crime,” said Bryan P. Stirling, Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. “Smart justice reforms across the country have identified key evidence based components to divert low risk non-violent offenders to community supervision rather than serving sentencing behind prison walls. Smart justice reforms include partnerships with employment agencies and community organization to assist with ex-offenders transition back into the community. It is very important for correctional agencies to utilize reentry programs that provide inmates with necessary skills to return to their community and support their families.”


“I want to thank the Coalition for Public Safety and the U.S. Justice Action Network for inviting me to speak at this forum. Sharing our diverse experiences is a crucial component to continuing the work of criminal justice reform and I was honored to lend my voice today,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “We are proud of the efforts we are undertaking to help those in our custody address the underlying issues – including substance use disorders and mental illness – that have led to their incarceration, and recognize more work remains.”


Arthur Rizer, Policy Director & Senior Fellow at R Street Institute: “The American criminal justice system is on precipice of change – we can either go forward or backward.  If we go forward, we will have safer communities, save money, and more “justice.” If we go backwards, we will alienate another generation of our people from the American Dream.”


“Equal Justice Under Law is a fundamental tenet of the U.S. criminal justice system,” said Steven Hawkins, President, the Coalition for Public Safety. “Today’s forum was a reminder that just as law upholds justice and equality, true law and order is best served by justice reform. The Coalition for Public Safety is proud to bring rising leaders together with tested reformers to tackle the pressing issues our nation is facing. As the country moves forward, the wisdom of people who are both implementing and directly impacted by our criminal justice system should help chart our course.”


“The purpose of today’s forum was to show that smart justice reform policy is truly tough on crime,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director, U.S. Justice Action Network.


“Our work at the state level, with law enforcement leaders like those who spoke today, proves these reforms lower crime and recidivism rates and ultimately make us all safer. The message from today is simple: if you want law and order, then you should support proven policies that safely reduce the prison population and create a path for those leaving prison to find jobs, support their families and lead crime-free lives.”

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