NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- It turns out Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Eric Holder may actually have the same ideas when it comes to prison reform.
During a Friday panel on criminal justice reform at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Perry praised Holder, along with President Barack Obama, for pushing reforms aimed at reducing the number of people in America's federal prisons. The types of reforms Holder has been advocating -- strategies like more reliance on drug courts and reduced sentencing for first-time nonviolent offenders -- mirror what Perry has put in place in Texas, and the administration has praised the state for its changes.
"There aren't many things that the president and the attorney general and I agree about. Know what I mean?" said Perry, who was a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. "They both recognize what we've done in Texas. The idea that we lock people up, throw them away, never give them a chance at redemption is not what America's about."
Perry said the crime rate in Texas is as low as it's been since 1967. While the prison capacity in California, a state of comparable size to Texas, is at 180 percent, it's at 96 percent in Texas, he said.
"We shut a prison down last year. You want to talk about a real conservative government? Shut prisons down," Perry said. "Save money. That's what can happen with drug courts."
Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and also a panelist at CPAC, said it's up to conservatives to take the lead on prison reform, especially by encouraging states to come up with their own approaches.
"This is a conservative initiative," he said. "The whole idea of seeing what's right on crime reforms, coming state by state -- if something isn't working, I want to find out about in Arizona, not law in all 50 states at once."