Pubdate: Sat, 24 Oct 2015
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Sacramento Bee


New Group of Prominent Law Enforcement Leaders Say Too Many 
Nonviolent Offenders Are in Prison

Bipartisan Bill on Sentencing Reform Passes Senate Committee

President Obama is on a tour to promote reform and should bring it to 
California President Barack Obama listens during a community 
discussion Wednesday in Charleston, W.Va., on the prescription drug 
and heroin abuse epidemics. Steve Helber The Associated Press

By the Editorial Board

A critical mass appears to be forming to limit America's prison 
population growth.

That became clear Thursday. At the White House, leaders of a powerful 
new coalition of police chiefs and prosecutors who support lowering 
the incarceration rate met with President Barack Obama, who has taken 
on that cause. On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan bill to reduce sentences 
for nonviolent drug offenders passed its first major test with 
approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Both developments are crucial to turn our nation from tough on crime 
to smart on crime.

It should reassure Americans that 130 law enforcement leaders are 
joining advocacy groups to say that merely locking more people away 
doesn't improve public safety. They're calling for alternatives to 
prison, including mental health and drug treatment; reducing 
punishment for some crimes; and strengthening ties between police and 

The group's founding members include Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, 
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, San Diego County District 
Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, 
and San Francisco D.A. George Gascon and Police Chief Greg Suhr.

By passing mandatory minimum sentences, Congress is partly 
responsible for the population in federal and state prisons and local 
jails soaring from 500,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million now. Far too many 
inmates are in for drug offenses, filling cells that should be 
reserved for violent criminals. The legislation would start fixing 
that by shortening mandatory federal sentences for repeat drug 
offenders and giving federal judges more discretion in drug cases.

This week, Obama launched a nationwide tour to promote his vision of 
criminal justice reform. On Wednesday, he visited a family center in 
West Virginia to highlight the heroin epidemic. Next Tuesday, he 
plans to speak to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Chicago.

He should bring his tour to California, which is focusing on 
sentencing reform. The tough-on-crime crowd is pushing back. Some 
presidential leadership is in order.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom