A group of police chiefs and prosecutors from major law enforcement bureaus across the United States want more alternatives to arresting people, an end to mandatory minimum sentences and to reduce the amount of criminal laws. Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, which comprises more than 100 law enforcement leaders, is scheduled to announce a new plan Wednesday to reduce the rising number of people behind bars, the New York Times reported.
The announcement will mark a shift in the history of some of the departments involved that have a “tough on crime” history. The group includes New York Police Chief Bill Bratton, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, among others.
By reducing the amount of inmates in prison, public safety will be improved, the group has said. Offering treatment for drug addicts and those with mental health issues can help reduce incarceration rates and help those in need reintegrate into the public, they said.
"Our officers are losing all day long on arrest reports and at lockups dropping off prisoners — it's for low level offenders who pose no threat to the community, are posing very little to no threat for recidivism and overwhelmingly are just folks who have mental health or drug addiction problems that there's no place else for them to go," Ronal Serpas, co-chair of the group and former New Orleans Police Superintendent, told NPR.
The group wants to push national and state legislatures to do away with certain small offenses from criminal codes and to make some nonviolent felonies misdemeanors. The group was clear to state that they don’t want to hinder the ability of police and prosecutors to take on those who committed violent or serious crimes.
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The scheduled announcement comes amid a national discussion about the country’s high incarceration rates, which, according to some estimates, costs the United States about $80 billion a year to maintain. Congress is now weighing a bipartisan bill that would overhaul the way prison sentences are given, according to the Associated Press. The legislation would allow judges to have more discretion to give nonviolent drug offenders below mandatory minimum sentences and allow for some low-risk inmates to get reduced sentences if they enter rehabilitation programs.