Conservative criminal justice reform leaders chart path forward

Conservative criminal justice reform advocates huddled in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to chart a path forward to improve the criminal justice system in ways that are consistent with conservative values.

The annual summit was organized by Right on Crime (ROC), which bills itself as the "one-stop source for conservative ideas on criminal justice reform." Many ROC signatories were in attendance, including conservative luminaries Richard Viguerie, Ken Blackwell, Ken Cuccinelli and Grover Norquist, as well as several state legislators.

The discussion was led by Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general, and Marc Levin, ROC's policy director. Here are three takeaways from the final session, which was open to the media.

1) Conservative reformers must differentiate their ideas and policies from those of liberal reformers. Cuccinelli stressed that while it is important to partner with liberal reform advocates such as the ACLU and President Obama when there are opportunities to do so, conservatives must "distinguish ourselves on messages." Conservatives must make it clear that their support for reforms comes from conservative principles, such as the desire to reduce the role of government.

2) Teach conservatives how to talk about reform. Kelly McCutchen from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation said that conservative reformers need to help Republicans feel more comfortable advocating for reform. Cuccinelli said that he has spoken with lawmakers who want to move forward with reforms but don't know how. They should be encouraged to insert reform ideas and proposals into speeches, campaign messaging and state of the union addresses. One idea that was discussed was to create a tool that would allow lawmakers and others to track which reforms are being implemented and where.