May 2016 Newsletter
Law Enforcement Leaders to Mitch McConnell: Pass Sentencing Reform
Last week Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and other senators unveiled the long-awaited revisions to the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.
The bill reduces mandatory minimums for some non-violent crimes, and gives judges more discretion in sentencing low-level offenders. Originally introduced last year, the bill was recently modified to gain broader Senate support. The National District Attorneys Association, a partner of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, released a letter of support shortly before the announcement.
Law Enforcement Leaders is a key supporter of the measure, saying it will both protect public safety and reduce the federal prison population. The group held a media briefing call with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a key architect of the measure, after the announcement.
“Law enforcement is counting on Congress to pass sentencing reform this year to help us keep crime rates at historic lows,” said Ronal Serpas, chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders and former superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department. “We have spent our entire careers focused on keeping citizens safe. From that experience, we know our current policies put people in prison who don’t belong there. That ultimately gets in the way of smart, effective policing and prosecution.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said the bill’s widespread support — it’s now cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 37 senators — “should allay concern” among critics. “The compromise sentencing reform bill will enhance public safety, not harm it, by allowing the government to target its enforcement efforts where they are most needed,” he added.
Leaders called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
Read more in Roll Call, listen to the media briefing, and read the group’s letter of support.
Members Talk State Prison Reforms and 2016 Election
Law Enforcement Leaders are also active in their own jurisdictions. T.J. Donovan, the state’s attorney in Chittenden County, Vermont, who is also running for state attorney general, is calling for an end to sending inmates out of state to serve sentences in private prisons.
Although private prisons may be less expensive, Donovan, writing in the Vermont Digger, said they also mean “bad service, low to no accountability, and poor outcomes for those warehoused in these facilities.” He added that the practice “abandons the obligation we owe our communities and each other to ensure that offenders can re-enter our cities, towns and villages as productive members of safe communities.”
And, Middlesex County, Mass., Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian is supporting an effort to retain Medicaid for pretrial detainees. Under the current system, defendants who make bail maintain Medicaid coverage, while those who cannot afford bail and are detained lose their coverage, despite having not been convicted of a crime. As a result, sheriffs’ offices must pay for health care costs.
Koutoujian recently joined the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the National Association of Counties at a Washington, D.C., meeting calling for expanding Medicaid access. His jail was cited in a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.).
Dekalb County, Georgia, Police Chief Cedric Alexander wrote an op-ed for CNN listing three questions the presidential candidates should be asked about policing. In summary, the questions were:
- How will you support police in building trust with the community?
- How will you move forward with the recommendations by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing?
- What is your plan for “life-saving, life-enhancing” relations between the police and the community?
Member Spotlight: Former U.S. Attorney Richard Pocker
Richard Pocker (left) is a partner in the Las Vegas office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner. He was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada from 1989 to 1990, and was an assistant U.S. Attorney from 1985 to 1988.
“We’ve come to the point in the country at this time where sentencing reform is necessary. And we have to do it in such a way to protect the public.”
Watch his testimonial and others here. Pocker also participated in a standing-room only briefing on Capitol Hill in support of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. Read what he had to say at that event here.