Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Washington, says he welcomes conservatives to the conversation, but wonders whether, for instance, culture warriors like Bennett will be willing to back the idea of sending fewer people to prison for drug use, prostitution, or pornography.

Likewise, small-government activists like Norquist might balk at new programs, for rehabilitation and early-release supervision, that cost money and create new bureaucracies.

For now, however, the lefty advocates are embracing the new conservative interest in their cause — as strange as some of their new bedfellows may seem.

To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

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