Last week, Leslie Proll, Director of Policy at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), sent a letter to the United States House of Representatives, urging its Judiciary Committee, as well as Congress as a whole, to make the passage of comprehensive criminal justice reform early in the year a legislative priority.
Current federal law has resulted in the disproportionate mass incarceration of persons of color, which has created an explosion in the federal prison population, from more than 24,000 in 1980 to nearly 220,000 in 2013. This dramatic increase is, in large part, the result of federal prosecutors’ and law enforcement officers’ unequal and aggressive enforcement of drug-related criminal laws and the imposition of mandatory sentences on persons of color.
To combat the negative social and economic effects of the disproportionate imprisonment of persons of color, LDF urges the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation that will result in comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system at all stages — from police stops to sentencing to re-entry. LDF’s letter detailed provisions from the following bills that could lead to systemic reforms:
- (H.R. 1680) Police CAMERA Act, which makes federal funds contingent upon police body-worn camera programs;
- (H.R. 1933) End Racial Profiling Act of 2015, which prohibits racial profiling by law enforcement agencies;
- (H.R. 2875) Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, which makes data collection mandatory for use-of-force incidents and traffic and pedestrian stops, as well as provides increased funding for civil rights investigations conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice;
- (H.R. 1232) Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, which prohibits the Department of Defense from transferring certain military equipment to law enforcement;
- (H.R. 2944) Sensenbrenner-Scott Safe Justice Act of 2015, which creates and implements procedures to reduce over-incarceration due to pretrial detention, among other things;
- (H.R. 1459) Democracy Restoration Act of 2015, which automatically restores voting rights to persons released from prison;
- (H.R. 3470) Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2015, which limits the use of background checks during the hiring process;
- (H.R. 2521) Restoring Education and Learning Act (REAL) of 2015, which makes formerly incarcerated students eligible for federal Pell grants;
- (H.R. 1672) Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment (REDEEM) Act of 2015, which seals the nonviolent criminal and juvenile records of past offenders;
- (H.R. 3713) Sentencing Reform Act of 2015, which addresses racial disparities in sentencing;
- (H.R. 1255) Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2015, which would eliminate disparities between crack and cocaine sentences;
- (H.R. 3406) Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015, which improves and expands grant programs for government agencies and non-profit organizations providing post-incarceration supportive services, such as career training and placement; and
- (H.R. 759 Amendment) Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act of 2016, which helps prepare the incarcerated for their eventual release by establishing a prison-based recidivism reduction program.
LDF appreciates the House Judiciary Committee’s efforts to undertake criminal justice reform and believes that the elimination of racial bias and longstanding inequities, throughout our criminal justice system, should be the paramount focus of Congress this year. The Committee’s consideration of these bills would represent important steps in a long but necessary process.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and 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. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.