We’re send­ing too many peo­ple to fed­eral prison

The News & Observer - - Opinion - BY BOBBY KIMBROUGH Bobby Kimbrough was re­cently elected sher­iff of Forsyth County. He has served in law en­force­ment for 32 years, with the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion, N.C. Depart­ment of Pro­ba­tion and Pa­role, and Win­ston-Salem Po­lice Depart­ment. He is

North Carolina is a leader in smart jus­tice re­form, im­prov­ing pub­lic safety while re­duc­ing our prison pop­u­la­tion. While states from Texas to South Carolina have done the same, it is time for a change on both state and fed­eral lev­els. The cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional lead­ers have sig­naled sup­port for com­bin­ing prison re­form and sen­tenc­ing re­form.

Now is the time for our lead­ers to make fed­eral crim­i­nal jus­tice poli­cies con­sis­tent with our progress in North Carolina.

In 2011, North Carolina state leg­is­la­tors passed the Jus­tice Rein­vest­ment Act to mod­ern­ize our sen­tenc­ing laws and cor­rec­tional prac­tices. Five years later, a N.C. Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety re­port showed our crime rates and prison pop­u­la­tion had each de­creased by about 10 per­cent. The num­ber of peo­ple sent to prison for vi­o­lat­ing pro­ba­tion had dropped by an in­cred­i­ble 65 per­cent.

I have seen the im­por­tance of an ef­fec­tive jus­tice sys­tem through decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in law en­force­ment. I was born and raised in North Carolina, and in 1984 I joined the Win­ston-Salem Po­lice Depart­ment. A few years later, I trans­ferred to the N.C. Depart­ment of Pro­ba­tion and Pa­role to work with high-risk of­fend­ers. After six years there, I spent the re­main­der of my ca­reer as a spe­cial agent with the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion (DEA).

While in­ves­ti­gat­ing gangs, or­ga­nized crime, money laun­der­ing, and drug traf­fick­ing, I saw my share of peo­ple who needed to be sent to prison.

But I also saw that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is send­ing many peo­ple to prison who would be bet­ter served by re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, com­mu­nity-based sup­port ser­vices, or com­mu­nity ser­vice. And most peo­ple we send to prison re­turn to so­ci­ety after a few years – we need to pre­pare them for suc­cess so they don’t fall back to crime for a lack of job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

To­day, we are see­ing a wave of drug crime and theft due to the opi­oid epi­demic. We must be smarter with our re­sources – ef­fec­tive treat­ment, not vengeance, will get us out of this cri­sis. In­stead of cy­cling peo­ple who use drugs through jail and prison, we need to pro­vide treat­ment, coun­sel­ing, and other re­sources for sta­bi­liza­tion and re­cov­ery.

Soon, an op­por­tu­nity may come for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to fol­low North Carolina on jus­tice re­form. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell said he is will­ing to have a vote on Pres­i­dent Trump’s crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form pack­age be­fore the end of the year.

Sen­a­tors Til­lis and Burr have pre­vi­ously sup­ported sen­tenc­ing re­form, and it is im­por­tant they con­tinue to show lead­er­ship in this area. Just this week, law en­force­ment and Repub­li­cans gath­ered in the White House to hear Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­mal sup­port for the bill – which would in­crease prison re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices and give in­di­vid­u­als a sec­ond chance.

I hope to see North Carolina’s U.S. sen­a­tors guid­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to pass prison re­form that will make our com­mu­ni­ties safer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.