My name is Ronald E. Hampton; I am one of the co-conveners of the DC Justice Collaborative established as an initiative under the leadership of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century. Additionally, I am a retired police officer that served over 23 years in the DC Metropolitan Police Department.
The recent homicides in Washington are a cause for great concern. However, the emotional response of some in our city is not new. In the not so recent past, the call for more arrest, longer prison sentences, the relaxing of the protections of the fourth amendment of the constitution, and the ability to detain individuals up to 72 hours did not work in the past and will not work now.
We have been here before. The so called increases in violent crime occurred in the 1970s and the 1980s created the context for increased arrests and harsher sentencing practices. Those increases resulted in America having the highest incarceration rate in the world. A 500% increase over the forty years.
Perceptions of harshness and unfairness in the criminal justice system undermine confidence in the system by the African American community, which in turn impacts public safety. Interventions and prevention strategies can be adopted to address the structural problems that compromise public safety and result in negative law enforcement contacts.
In recent years in our city there has been modest progress: addressing the use of racial profiling, sentencing disproportionately of African American defendants, and drug and miner traffic arrest of America American men and youth. Even so, we are still a society and city that arrest and sentence disproportionate more African Americans and Latinos than their percentage in the city. The fact of matter is that there are two criminal justice systems in this city, one for whites and another for Black men and youth.
All too often, the kind of suggested recommendations in the legislations leads to the continuation of singling out those in our community returning from incarceration and on probation/ parole. As well as setting aside the protections of our Fourth Amendment protections in their homes.
Lastly, evidence based research shows that strengthening opportunity can reduce future contact with the criminal justice system. Officials must focus on social policies that address targeted interventions and prevention strategies that address the root causes in our communities. I think you have to analyze the impact of the genefication and dislocation that is taken place in our city.
The DC Justice Collaborative is proud to be one of the organizations working with formerly incarcerated Brothers, Sisters, and their efforts to create better and safe community for us to live in.