I am writing today to express my support for the initiative of the State House Black Caucus to block the latest incarnation of a bill involving mandatory minimum prison sentences.
The bill has been under negotiation for some time, with the Caucus expressing their concern that mandatory minimums have proven ineffective in addressing crime and recidivism and have had a devastating disproportionate impact on African Americans. It has imposed a very significant and unnecessary burden on taxpayers and reduced scarce state resources for education and other priorities.
(Mayor Rahm Emanuel had backed the bill; here’s his response to last week’s action.)
There is a growing awareness both on the national and the local level that mass incarceration is a failed policy and that there is a need for alternative crime prevention and reduction strategies and programs to reduce recidivism.
The bipartisan efforts I have participated in creating at the federal level have demonstrated that such programs are effective in reducing crime, recidivism and cost.
But unfortunately the United States still leads the developed world in the share of our population behind bars and the African-American community is still disproportionately impacted by these policies.
I know it is still politically seductive in some circles to suggest that longer prison sentences will solve our social problems, but as prison budgets consume a larger and larger share of public resources there is a growing recognition that these simplistic fixes are unsustainable as well as ineffective.
I salute state Rep. Ken Dunkin and the other members of the State House Black Caucus for standing up to the National Rifle Association and other forces and demanding a comprehensive, evidenced-based approach to fighting crime.
Danny K. Davis
Member of Congress