Today, the Legal Defense Fund and the Justice Roundtable sent a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy opposing the Prosecutors Need to Prosecute Act (H.R. 27). The bill would encourage prosecutors to pursue more cases with harsher penalties, despite bipartisan concerns that the United States already incarcerates far too many people for far too long. It would require that prosecutor’s offices in jurisdictions with populations over 380,000 disclose, for enumerated offenses, information related to the number of cases referred by the police, declinations, bail requests, plea bargains, an individual’s criminal history, and convictions. The bill makes this reporting a requirement for funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (“Byrne”) and is based on a false premise that filing more criminal charges, detaining more people pre-trial, and making fewer plea offers will make our communities safer.
H.R. 27 rests on the assumption that more pretrial incarceration and more prosecutions seeking harsher sentences will increase public safety. Yet there is no evidence to support this. Research by LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute found that “tough-on-crime” practices such as “law-and-order” prosecutors, pretrial incarceration, and increased police budgets did not prevent cities from experiencing a homicide spike in 2020. Transparency in criminal legal system data is critical and there should be bipartisan efforts to improve data collection around arrests, prosecutions, and convictions; however, the Prosecutors Need to Prosecute Act is the wrong approach to achieve these goals.
Read the full letter here.
Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.