A political icon credited with helping to create the Moral Majority in the 1970s has called on conservatives to back prison reform, citing prison spending as “excessive” and pointing out how the prison system is “harmful to prisoners and their families.”

In a New York Times column, Richard Viguerie wrote, “Conservatives should recognize that the entire criminal justice system is another government spending program fraught with the issues that plague all government programs. Criminal justice should be subject to the same level of skepticism and scrutiny that we apply to any other government program.”

Viguerie continued, “The United States now has 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of its prisoners. Nearly one in every 33 American adults is in some form of correctional control.”

Known as the “Funding Father of the conservative movement” for what he accomplished through direct mail fundraising, Viguerie said that states spend more than $50 billion annually on the prison system.

“Increased spending has not improved effectiveness. More than 40 percent of ex-convicts return to prison within three years of release; in some states, recidivism rates are closer to 60 percent,” he noted.

Viguerie said that leading Republicans were supporting efforts at prison reform.

“Using free-market and Christian principles, conservatives have an opportunity to put their beliefs into practice as an alternative to government-knows-best programs that are failing prisoners and the society into which they are released,” he wrote.

Some Republicans and Democrats have been working across partisan aisles to address prison reform.

EthicsDaily.com is currently producing a documentary on faith and prisons.

Vignettes from the documentary will be screened at the Baptist Center for Ethics’ annual luncheon during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual meeting.

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