Leaders representing the nation’s largest law enforcement organizations sent letters to both presidential candidates last week – on behalf of 30,000 law enforcement professionals – urging the next administration to reform the justice system by promoting public safety, reducing recidivism, and modifying sentencing policies.
The group – Law Enforcement Leaders – is a coalition of the country’s largest law enforcement organizations and includes: police chiefs, sheriffs, district and assistant district attorneys, attorneys’ general, and U.S. attorneys.
There is no doubt that public safety officials have been getting a lot of attention lately. As we previously covered, much of this comes from the breakdown of communication, trust, and respect between communities and police. Rebuilding that relationship will be an ongoing process that the next administration will be a key player in.
In the letter the group said,
“we know from our experience as law enforcement officials that over-relying on incarceration does not deter crime.”
To remedy that, they want the next president to advocate for local law enforcement to redirect funding to higher priorities – the targeting of serious and violent crimes. That would deemphasize arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning lower-level, non-violent offenders.
This summarizes the focus of reformers. For far too long, incarceration was believed to be the key to “fixing” neighborhood crime. This attitude has led to rampant over-criminalization of behavior that would otherwise not lead to one’s entrance into the justice system.
The group also wants sentencing laws modified to weed out low-level offenders from the growing prison population, while focusing resources on violent offenders who need to be incarcerated.
Acknowledging that incarcerating offenders who don’t belong in jail exacerbates the problem, the leaders said, “we also realize that, as we see the same offenders reenter the criminal justice system time and time again, we must be creative and devise innovative programs to reduce recidivism, including job training, addiction counseling, and other productive activities.”
Reformers have long advocated for more reliance on diversion and rehabilitation programs than incarceration. These programs have not only proven to make a positive impact on communities, but they also lessen the financial burden of maintaining prisoners.
In addition to showing their support for law enforcement, a president who champions these policies would help broaden support for restorative justice reforms that place the focus on positive outcomes, not incarceration rates.