Riggs, top U.S. law enforcement urge end to mass incarceration

October 21, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- IU Public Policy Institute director of public safety outreach Troy Riggs and 129 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and attorneys general from all 50 states joined together today as a surprising new voice calling for the end to unnecessary incarceration in the U.S. -- while maintaining public safety.

Riggs contributes his data-driven approach of enhancing residents' quality of life, including reducing the incarceration rates of individuals with mental health issues and expanding assistance for re-entrants.

The new group, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, marks an unprecedented partnership among the nation's top law-enforcement leaders to push reforms to reduce incarceration rates and strengthen public safety.

"Too many people are in jail who don’t deserve to be there, resulting in a breakdown in families, loss of jobs and children growing up without a parent," said Riggs, noting that minor crimes and those involving people with mental illness deserve a second look.

At a press conference on October 21 in Washington, D.C., police chiefs from six of the largest U.S. cities -- New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Houston; and New Orleans -- announced their policy agenda.

President Barack Obama hosted members of Law Enforcement Leaders at the White House on October 22 to discuss why they believe reducing imprisonment while protecting public safety is a vital national goal.

Click to See the Full List of Members

Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration wants to pursue reforms around four policy priorities:

  • Increasing alternatives to arrest and prosecution, especially mental health and drug treatment. Policies within police departments and prosecutor's offices should divert people with mental health and drug addiction issues away from arrest, prosecution and imprisonment and instead into proper treatment.
  • Reducing unnecessary severity of criminal laws by reclassifying some felonies to misdemeanors or removing criminal sanctions where appropriate.
  • Reducing or eliminating mandatory/minimum laws that require specific sentences for crimes.
  • Strengthening ties between law enforcement and communities by promoting strategies that keep the public safe, improve community relations and increase community engagement.

"Good crime control does not involve imprisoning masses of people. It involves arresting and imprisoning the right people," said Law Enforcement Leaders co-chair Garry McCarthy, superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. "Arresting and imprisoning low-level offenders prevents us from focusing on violent crime."

Law Enforcement Leaders is a project of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Learn more about Law Enforcement Leaders