Lee hosting roundtable on criminal justice reform including Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on March 22, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is hosting a roundtable on criminal justice reform on Wednesday featuring former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, among others.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is kicking off Second Chance Month by hosting a roundtable conversation on criminal justice policy with conservative thought leaders, including former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, former Governor Rick Perry, Pat Nolan, Brooke Rollins and Josh Smith.

“Criminal justice reform is still somewhat of a conservative frontier, and with our strong proposals, we can reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars and make Tennessee communities safer,” said Gov. Lee. “I look forward to a thoughtful discussion on how Tennessee can lead the nation in balancing the notion of justice with the public safety outcomes we all expect.”

“The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) has consistently scored legislation in states across the country similar to that which Governor Lee has proposed,” said David Safavian, General Counsel for ACUF. “We view the underlying tenets of his approach as built on conservative ideals of improving community safety, advancing human dignity, reducing wasteful spending and the belief in redemption.”

About the Panelists:

Newt Gingrich: A fearless visionary and historian, Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich is one of the foremost economic, social, political, and security-focused conservative thinkers today. He is well-known as the architect of the “Contract with America” that led the Republican Party to victory in 1994 by capturing a majority in the United States House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Today, Newt is Chairman of Gingrich 360, a full-service American consulting, education and media production group that connects the past, present, and future to inspire audiences, solve challenges and develop opportunities.

Pat Nolan: Pat Nolan is the Director Emeritus of the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Nolan Center for Justice. Nolan is a leading voice on criminal justice reform, highlighting the skyrocketing costs of prison, fiscal responsibility in the criminal justice system and reforms for non-violent offenders. Nolan is the author of When Prisoners Return, which describes the important role of the Church in helping prisoners get back on their feet after they are released. He is a frequent expert witness at Congressional hearings on important issues such as prison work programs, juvenile justice, prison safety, offender reintegration and religious freedom. 

Gov. Rick Perry: Rick Perry is a former United States Secretary of Energy, serving under U.S. President Trump from March 2017 to December 2019. Prior to joining the Administration as Secretary of Energy, Perry served as the 47th Governor of Texas. As Governor of the Lone Star State, Perry championed conservative principles including leading the nation in criminal justice reform efforts, which eventually became a national blueprint for reform. 

Brooke Rollins: Brooke Rollins is an attorney who served as the acting director of the United States Domestic Policy Council under President Donald Trump and oversaw the White House Office of American Innovation. Rollins was president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based free-market think tank, from 2003 through 2018. Rollins previously served as deputy general counsel, ethics advisor and policy director to Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Josh Smith: A Tennessean who was formerly incarcerated, Josh has spent the past 15 years actively involved in criminal justice reform in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and countries in Central America. Smith has supported programs that provide hope, training and reentry support for prisoners and their families who earnestly want a new life, including hiring and mentoring many felons. In June of 2019 he was named to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force.  He and his wife of 23 years, Tracy, are now driven to reshape the reality for offenders, from the time they enter prison through their re-entry.

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