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Cops, Prosecutors: ‘End Mass Incarceration’

A group of law enforcement officials and prosecutors from around the country called for an end to mass incarceration on Wednesday.

The group, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, plans to meet with President Obama to urge him to take action to reform America’s criminal justice system.

At a press conference today in Washington, D.C., police chiefs from six of the largest U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Houston, and New Orleans, will announce their policy agenda, featured in a Statement of Principles.

The president will host members of the group at the White House tomorrow. Group leaders will share why they believe reducing imprisonment while protecting public safety is a vital national goal.

“Too many Americans, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, are being torn apart by our overly punitive justice system,” said Cornell Brooks, President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in a statement sent to JET. “Seeing law enforcement officials from across the country come together to address problems in the justice system sends a powerful message. We welcome these leaders to our efforts.”

Members of the group will work within their departments and with policymakers to pursue reforms around four key policy priorities.

  • Increasing alternatives to arrest and prosecution, especially mental health and drug treatment. Policies within police departments and prosecutor offices should divert people with mental health and drug addiction issues away from arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment and instead into proper treatment.
  • Reducing unnecessary severity of criminal laws by reclassifying some felonies to misdemeanors or removing criminal sanctions, where appropriate.
  • Reducing or eliminating mandatory minimum laws that require overly harsh, arbitrary sentences for crimes.
  • Strengthening ties between law enforcement and communities by promoting strategies that keep the public safe, improve community relations, and increase community engagement.

The initiative comes at a time when crime in the U.S. is at its lowest in half a century. Despite that reality, the country’s incarceration rate remains the highest in the world.

“Our decision to come together reflects the deep commitment among law enforcement’s ranks to end unnecessary, widespread incarceration,” said Law Enforcement Leaders Co-Chair Ronal Serpas, former Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department. “As leaders of the law enforcement community, we are committed to building a smarter, stronger, and fairer criminal justice system.”

For more information on Law Enforcement Leaders, visit www.lawenforcementleaders.org.