National Urban League Statement on 23rd Anniversary of 1994 Crime Act

National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial released the following statement marking the 23rd anniversary of the 1994 Omnibus Crime Act:

“Today, on the 23rd anniversary of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (Public Law 103-322), the largest and single most radical piece of criminal justice legislation in our nation’s history, we are reminded of the failures in our criminal justice system.  What we now know from extensive research is that the human cost of this ‘tough on crime’ legislation has far outweighed its benefits; resulting in the mass incarceration of millions of Americans and exceeding  that of any other country in the world.

“While we cannot undo the devastation this law has wreaked on African American and Latino communities across the country, we can ensure that we remedy those mistakes through restorative policies and criminal justice reform.  We applaud Senators Cory Booker (NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) for introducing the Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017, to incentivize states that successfully reduce both crime and incarceration.  We also support the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act of 2017, authored by Senators Kamala Harris (CA) and Rand Paul (KY) to reform the country’s unjust money bail system and ensure equal treatment for all people.

“As an economic civil rights organization, the National Urban League understands the disproportionate harm mass incarceration and the money bail system have on low-income and communities of color.  The United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet makes up 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.  African American men pay 35 percent higher money bail amounts than white men, and Hispanic men pay 19 percent higher money bail amounts than white men.  Equally troubling are states ongoing violations of 6th Amendment rights, which guarantee the poor swift, impartial and competent legal defense.

“Taken together, the Booker-Blumenthal reverse mass incarceration bill, along with the Harris-Paul bail reform bill, if passed, would be significant first steps in remedying a national crisis that has left entire families and communities in ruin.

“The National Urban League urges the U.S. Congress to pass both bills this year, along with other criminal justice reform measures.  Our movement will continue to raise awareness of the disparate effects of the criminal justice system on vulnerable communities, and advocate for equitable treatment of all people no matter their race or socio-economic status.”

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