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Chiefs, Prosecutors Launch Initiative to Reduce Prison Population

October 22, 2015  | 

More than a hundred of the nation's top police chiefs and prosecutors joined forces this week to launch a new effort to cut the number of people in prison. The new coalition of 120 heavyweights, called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, is based on one big idea: Putting too many people behind bars doesn't keep the public safe.

"Our experience has been, and in some ways it's counterintuitive, that you really can reduce crime and incarceration at the same time," said Ronal Serpas, co-chair of the group.

Serpas spent about 35 years in law enforcement, in jobs that took him from New Orleans to Washington state to Nashville. He told NPR he's come to believe that the justice system should conserve resources to handle the most serious and violent offenders. In too many cases, Serpas said, that doesn't happen now.

"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," he said.

Serpas said he and other members of the group will be speaking out and trying to change state and federal laws. Their goals include cutting tough mandatory minimum prison terms, opening up more alternatives to incarceration like mental health and sobriety centers, and fostering better relationships with communities of color, NPR reports.


Comments (6)

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

tedb @ 10/22/2015 3:47 PM

That man was an idiot when he commanded the Washington State Patrol and he seems not to have changed since he left. Let's turn the mentally challenged and the "Low-Level" drug offenders, like the one who just shot one of our brothers in NYC, back on the streets.

Bc02599 @ 10/22/2015 5:31 PM

All I have say is see Policemag article regarding the murdered NYPD officer and the killer who was out on a drug diversion program.

OK @ 10/23/2015 4:36 AM

How about building more prisons? Perhaps deporting illegal aliens that don't belong here in the first place. Maybe executing those inside for capital offenses. The idea that we need to release lesser evil to make room for greater evil to keep soceity safe is moronic at best.

tom @ 10/23/2015 5:11 AM

The key here is who is deciding who is a "low level" criminal. After one of them shoots a cop, it is too late for that officer to re-label the offender. The idea may have merit, but the consequences of being wrong are too dire. 120 of our top law enforcement administrators and prosecutors may collectively have a lot of experience, but how much of it deals with the day to day criminals that street cops have to deal with. Sorry but too many of these folks owe their positions to politics.

S.S. @ 10/23/2015 9:01 AM

Whoever is heading these programs are out of touch and wasting time. I guess serpas wasn't a police officer, because what he's spewing is b.s. He's waaaaaaaay outta touch. Has no idea what he's talking about.

Kojack58 @ 10/23/2015 3:54 PM

The way to not have so many prisoners is to clean out death row. Then prosecute the cop killers to the death penalty and I guarantee your crime rates will drop as the criminals realize they can get the needle for killing a cop or any other human being with 1st degree. We have got to wake up people or this country is going to die.

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