Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Taubman Center

Steven Teles - Johns Hopkins U: Why Conservatives Are Changing Their Tune on Mass Incarceration

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions, Seminar Room

Starting in the late 1960s, conservatives made getting tough on crime a cornerstone of their political appeal. In the process, they played a key role in the expansion of the American prison system, now by far the most punitive in the Western world. But in the last few years, conservative politicians in the states and national government have begun singing a new tune, offering reforms that include reducing the numbers of Americans under lock and key. This talk will explore the reasons for this change, with a special focus on the role of “identity vouching”-- the strategic use of the reputations of key movement leaders to change party positions.

Steven Teles is associate professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of  The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement (Princeton, 2008) and Whose Welfare: AFDC and Elite Politics (Kansas, 1996), and the co-editor of Conservatism and American Political Development" (Oxford, 2009) and Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (Cambridge, 2005). He is currently at work on two books, one on the transformation of American foundations over the last half century, and the other on conservatives’ changing positions on criminal justice.