Law Enforcement Leaders unites over 200 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, federal and state prosecutors, and attorneys general from all 50 states to urge for a reduction in both crime and incarceration. We believe the country can reduce incarceration while keeping down crime, and we support changes to our criminal justice system to achieve that goal.
As current and former leaders of the law enforcement community — police chiefs, sheriffs, district and state’s attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, attorneys general, and other leaders — protecting public safety is our foremost priority. From experience and through data-driven and innovative practices, we know the country can reduce crime while also reducing unnecessary arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration. We can also reduce recidivism and strengthen relationships with communities. With the goal of building a smarter, stronger, and fairer criminal justice system, we join together to urge a change in laws and practices to reduce incarceration while continuing to keep our country safe.
Law Enforcement Leaders is committed to identifying and implementing solutions to simultaneously reduce crime and incarceration. We join those across this nation calling for an end to unnecessary incarceration. As police and prosecutors, we know that the country can – and should – reduce incarceration while keeping down crime.
Incarceration levels in the United States have reached a crisis point. Today, our country has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its prisoners. If the prison population were a state, it would be the 36th largest. Too many people are behind bars that don’t belong there. As law enforcement professionals, we have a responsibility to work toward reducing unnecessary incarceration while continuing to ensure our communities are safe.
Extensive reliance on prison as a punishment does not keep us safe. 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.
Our current system is tremendously expensive. Government spending on jails and prisons has grown almost 400 percent over the past 30 years. Today, our vast system of prisons costs $80 billion a year. These dollars could be better spent on what we know works to keep down crime – smart law enforcement policies, reentry services, and mental health and drug treatment for those who need it.
Imprisoning so many people comes at a great cost not only to American taxpayers, but also to our communities. Unnecessary incarceration exacerbates racial disparities, economic inequality, and hinders economic opportunity in the communities that need it most. Today, one in three black men will end up incarcerated. And 60 percent of prisoners reentering society face long-term unemployment.
For decades, the problem of unnecessary incarceration has grown in plain sight. The media regularly highlights the flaws of the criminal justice system. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents across the country are coming together to pass laws that would reduce prison populations. Thirteen states have successfully reduced imprisonment and crime at the same time. But much more needs to be done. Now is the time for law enforcement, as leaders in the field, to help. By using our experience to support reform, Law Enforcement Leaders can reduce unnecessary incarceration around the country while continuing to protect public safety.
On October 21, 2015 Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration publicly launched at a media event in Washington, D.C. at the National Press Club. Click here to learn more about our launch event.
Law Enforcement Leaders is a project of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
To advance our goals, Law Enforcement Leaders members participate in the following activities:
- Speak to the media, public, and policymakers about our conviction that we can reduce incarceration and crime together, while supporting specific policies.
- Support legislative changes at the federal and state levels, and practice changes at the local level and in our own departments.
- Vet relevant research and policy proposals to reduce incarceration.
We currently have over 200 members hailing from all 50 states, from all divisions of law enforcement, and from across the political spectrum.
Police Chief, Louisville, Kentucky
Former Police Superintendent, New Orleans, Louisiana
County Attorney, Hennepin County, Minnesota
Police Chief, San Francisco, California
Police Chief, Washington, District of Columbia
Sheriff, Las Vegas, Nevada
Former U.S. Attorney, District of Utah