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April 14, 2008 ­ Justice Policy Institute (US)

Clinton Crime Agenda Ignores Proven Methods for Reducing Crime

Advocates Say Plan Will Increase Incarceration Rates And Negatively Impact The Poor And Minorities

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

For Immediate Release
Contact: LaWanda Johnson (202)-558-7974 x308, cell 202-320-1029

Washington, D.C.--The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) announced today that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's anti-crime package ignores critical research that finds that investments in employment, education, housing and treatment for those who need it is the most effective and fiscally-responsible way to improve public safety.

Research shows that Clinton's proposal to revive former President Clinton's COPS initiative, which called for investments in policing, would increase prison populations, and may have a negative impact on the nation's poor and minorities, without significantly reducing crime.

The Clinton Administration's "tough on crime" policies resulted in the largest increases in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Advocates say re-implementing this agenda would be a return to bad policies.

"The first COPS was found to be costly and ineffective in reducing crime rates and COPS 2.0 is not an improved version of the first one," says JPI executive director Sheila Bedi. "COPS was only successful in filling our prisons and jails with people who research shows can be better served with treatment, evidence-based practices, and community-based alternatives that also promote public safety."

According to research, adding police to the streets is not the most effective method for reducing crime. Delaware received $19.6 million in COPS grants and during that same time, the number of violent crimes increased 35.9 percent. In contrast, Oklahoma City, which did not receive any COPS grants, decreased its police force by 16 percent and during that same period saw a dramatic 32.5 percent decrease in the number of violent crimes reported.

Furthermore, advocates say law enforcement professionals don't support policing as being the most effective method of reducing crime. In a 2002 poll, 71.1 percent of surveyed chief of police, sheriffs and prosecutors agreed that providing more educational and after-school programs would make the greatest impact in reducing youth crime and violence. Only 14.9 percent said that hiring more police would have the greatest impact.

"We've tried to win the war on gangs with law enforcement alone, but we have little to show for it," says National Black Police Association Executive Director Ronald Hampton. "Rather than engaging in endless battles, we need to target the problem behavior that hurts communities. We should support the kinds of prevention and proven programs that we already know reduce violence and crime."

Research supports investments in communities as a more cost effective and beneficial way of reducing crime. Research shows that when there is a reduction in crimes rates, it coincides with increased employment. When more people have jobs, fewer crimes are committed. A study by the Heritage Foundation found that "For every 1 percent increase in civilian labor force participation, violent crime is expected to decrease by 8.8 incidents per 100,000" people.

"Not only does the Clinton crime plan lack innovation and forward thinking, it ignores all we know about crime prevention. When people are employed, violent crime decreases," says Lisa Kung, Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

"One in every one hundred Americans is incarcerated. It is clear that Clinton intends to continue a legacy of policies that will keep Americans paying for more police, more prisons and more punitive measures."

Advocates also believe that Clinton's opposition to the U.S. Sentencing Commission's decision to make retroactive the changes to sentencing for the thousands of people who had received disproportionately long sentences for crack-cocaine, most of whom are African American, is concerning.

Nationwide, from 1995 to 2004, drug abuse violations were the only crime that saw an increase in arrests following the COPS grant.

However, a report by JPI release last year, found that while African Americans and whites use and sell drugs at similar rates, African Americans are ten times more likely than whites to be imprisoned for drug offenses mainly due to disparate policing practices, disparate treatment before the courts, mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws, and differences in the availability of drug treatment for African Americans.

According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, "it would be a cruel injustice to base the crack cocaine reduction on an assessment that these people have suffered under an unjust structure and then deny the benefit of the amendment to the very people whose experiences led the Commission to lower the sentences in the first place."

"If any of the candidates really wants to do something about crime, then they should invest in policies that increase employment, educational attainment and treatment for people who need it," says Bedi. "These are proven approaches that reduce crime and recidivism--evidence-based practices, which have undergone rigorous experimental inquiry, and have been shown to have proven public safety benefits."

For more information contact LaWanda Johnson at 202-558-7974, ext. 308.

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