WASHINGTON, D.C. – FWD.us D.C. Director for Criminal Justice Reform Dawit Getachew issued the following statement today after the D.C. Council voted to expand pretrial incarceration as part of an emergency legislation:
“We’re disappointed that the D.C. Council has voted today to expand pretrial detention for adults and youth, disregarding data showing more pretrial incarceration won’t make us safer. While it was encouraging to see that the Council made some changes to limit the provisions on pretrial detention for children, we’re extremely concerned that, on the whole, this bill will worsen the staggering racial disparities in the criminal justice system and fail to improve public safety.
“Decades of data and evidence make clear: pretrial incarceration hurts public safety, and even a few days of incarceration has incredibly harmful, destabilizing impacts on individuals and families. Ninety-three percent of people released pretrial are not rearrested for any offense while awaiting trial, and only 1% are rearrested for a violent offense while awaiting trial.
“As this policy goes into effect, it is imperative that there is vigilant oversight and review of implementation of this emergency legislation and its impact on D.C. residents, particularly in communities of color. We take Councilmember Pinto up on her offer to work collaboratively on permanent legislation to ensure that evidence-based policies, and not ones that worsen mass incarceration, are at the forefront of public safety policy.
“The legislation passed today ignores the strong objections from a broad range of voices – including from youth and criminal justice organizations, direct service providers, faith leaders, and many others – who understand that any expansion of pretrial detention or lengthening prison sentences will compromise rather than improve public safety.
“Today’s legislation cannot be the final word: when the Council reconvenes after recess, we urge them to follow the decades of research that clearly shows that incarceration is the least effective and most expensive public safety strategy, and to pursue policies that address the real root causes of crime that will improve public safety for everyone in the District, while helping to keep individuals, families, and communities safe.”