Gingrich backs NAACP effort on criminal justice reform

The NAACP is touting a letter from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) that lends support to the organization's call for reforming the nation's criminal justice system.

In the letter, the likely 2012 Republican presidential hopeful praises a report set for release Thursday by the NAACP for highlighting "many innovative solutions that rightly emphasize rehabilitation, aim to reduce recidivism rates and fortify communities across the country that have been ravaged by mass incarceration."

Emphasizing the potential taxpayer savings in prison reform, Gingrich writes, "These issues transcend partisan lines and should be of concern to Democrats and Republicans alike. Conservatives, such as myself, should not consider criminal justice reform off-limits, and I am pleased that our movement has begun to tackle these issues head-on." 

Last year, the U.S. spent some $68 billion on corrections, Gingrich noted, yet recidivism rates have not seen a decline.

"If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane alternatives — especially alternatives that do not involve spending billions more on more prisons — it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners," said Gingrich.

The NAACP is set to release a report Thursday titled "Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate."

The organization is also getting a vote of support from others in the conservative movement, including Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who is highlighting the potential taxpayer savings in reforming the system.