22 Apr 2011
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
Linda S. Wallace
Well, they’ve pushed that dark episode into the past in order to stake out common ground. Recently, I watched NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous on “The News Hour,” along with conservative Grover Norquist, president of the taxpayer advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform. This was a program where right and left were on the same page of the current political thriller, “Slash Your Budget.”
This emerging partnership between civil rights groups and conservatives has won some key victories in Texas, a cost-cutting state that had been considering prison construction. Tea Party members joined hands with the NAACP to argue that - in this case – less is more.
Factions on both the right and the left want to reduce or eliminate sentencing terms for non-violent drug offenders. The current system, which locks up productive, non-violent drug users, results in wasteful spending, conservatives say. The NAACP agrees, and it adds that the racially tinged sentencing structure is a counterproductive investment.
The NAACP’s Jealous said he would prefer to see the cost savings from any change in sentencing rules invested in higher education, while Norquist said conservatives propose to give the savings back to taxpayers.
According to a new NAACP report called “Misplaced Priorities,” the U.S. spends more than $50 billion on government-run correction programs. One in 31 Americans is under some form of correction control. America has 5 percent of the world’s people, yet houses 25 percent of those imprisoned globally, according to Jealous.
So let me throw out this question: where else can we agree and begin working with common purpose? It’s possible.
Check out “The News Hour” video at http://video.pbs.org/ video/1872592249. Then let’s start working on those issues that we can hammer out solutions to together. If the NAACP and the Tea Party can work together, then there’s reason to hope after all.
(Linda S. Wallace is The Cultural Coach. Visit her Cultural IQ blog here.)