Criminal Justice Reform

Problem

President Trump and DOJ Topper Sessions have fired a warning shot about the imminent danger posed by the so-called rising crime rate. Their fear factors will chill bipartisan attempts to reduce incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels. This scare administration tactic calls into question the trans-partisan nature of decades-long efforts.

Trump’s executive orders on crime have been vague and do not mandate immediate changes so they're merely symbolic. However, they could arm the attorney general with a dangerous course of criminal justice. As Sessions shares the president’s belief in a mounting crime wave, with a more aggressive immigration stance, the results are likely to be recommendations for punishing immigration, drug offenders. By directing a review of existing policies, the first order helps lay the foundation for changes to how law enforcement operates across our entire country.

Recommendations for changes are expected by the end of July, when a Crime Task Force delivers its recommendations like canceling Obama-era memos on prosecutorial discretion, which helped decrease the federal prison population, and diverted low-level drug offenders away from incarceration.

The administration may get Congress to pass new criminal laws on drugs, immigration and suggest new mandatory minimums for these crimes. These could be highlights of the president’s Restoring Community Safety Act proposal.

To protect law enforcement officers, the Justice Department could redirect grant streams to fund local law enforcement activities. Some of these changes could be made without congressional approval. The attorney general can recalibrate grants to incentivize changes in state criminal justice policy.

Other changes could be accomplished in the budgeting process, for example, by increasing funds to help departments buy additional crime fighting hardware, like military surplus equipment and others.