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Right-Wing Prison Reform: Now It's a Crowd

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When you hear the occasional conservative talking sense about mass incarceration, it can seem like a fluke.

When you get them all together in one room, it feels like a movement.

More than 60 conservatives from around the country are meeting at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington today to talk about overhauling the criminal justice system. And they are saying a lot of things liberals would like to hear.

Newt Gingrich: "Once you decide everybody in prison is also an American then you gotta really reach into your own heart and ask, is this the best we can do?"

Dave Keene, the former NRA president and American Conservative Union chairman: "Everybody forgot what the mission in our society of the criminal justice system is. It's not simply to punish people. It's not simply to extract retribution. It's to provide a safer society. And to treat people humanely."

Today's event underscores the transformation that has occurred in conservative thinking on crime and punishment in the last five years. States from Texas to Mississippi to Georgia have passed sweeping reforms aimed at reducing the number of people in prison and, yes, save money. This "leadership summit" is part of a broader campaign called "Right on Crime" aimed at building on this momentum.

More later; I'll also be posting updates on Twitter @daviddagan.