Over 130 police chiefs, prosecutors, attorneys general, and sheriffs have formed a new organization dedicated to calling for criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing U.S. prison populations. The group, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, is set to meet with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
The organization’s website states, “We believe the country can reduce incarceration while keeping down crime. We believe unnecessary incarceration does not work to reduce crime, wastes taxpayer dollars, damages families and divides communities. We aim to build a smarter, stronger, and fairer criminal justice system by replacing ineffective policies with new solutions that reduce both crime and incarceration.”
Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration reportedly plans to lobby for alternatives to arrest for individuals with mental health or drug addiction issues, the repeal of criminal laws that waste officers’ time without providing public safety benefits, and the unwinding of zero-tolerance policies like mandatory minimum sentences.
Ronal Serpas, co-chair of the organization and former Nashville police chief and New Orleans police superintendent, told NPR, “Our experience has been, and in some ways it’s counterintuitive, that you really can reduce crime and incarceration at the same time… Our officers are losing all day long on arrest reports and at lockups dropping off prisoners — it’s for low-level offenders who pose no threat to the community, are posing very little to no threat for recidivism, and overwhelmingly are just folks who have mental health or drug addiction problems that there’s no place else for them to go.”
Chicago Police Department superintendent Garry McCarthy, another of the group’s co-chairs, told The New York Times, “After all the years I’ve been doing this work, I ask myself, ‘What is a crime, and what does the community want? When we’re arresting people for low-level offenses — narcotics — I’m not sure we’re achieving what we’ve set out to do. The system of criminal justice is not supporting what the community wants. It’s very obvious what needs to be done, and we feel the obligation as police chiefs to do this.”
New York police chief William J. Bratton and Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck are among the law enforcement leaders who have joined the group.
The organization’s website pointed out, “Imprisoning people at today’s exorbitant levels has little crime control benefit, especially for nonviolent offenders. Research shows incarceration can increase future crime in some cases, as prison often acts as a ‘crime school.’ And laws that require prison for low-level offenses interfere with our work, taking time and vital resources away from us preventing serious and violent crimes.”
Watch Truth in Media’s Consider This video, embedded below, which puts the scope of the mass incarceration of non-violent offenders under the U.S. War on Drugs into perspective.