By Perla Brito and Audrey Sawyer
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Sentencing Project and a broad coalition of civil rights and criminal justice reform organizations are urging Congress to oppose attacks on the revised criminal code bill, and heavily criticized President Joe Biden’s comments about signing a resolution blocking a comprehensive revision of D.C. criminal code from going into effect.
According to news reports, while Biden said he supports D.C. statehood and home rule, he did not agree with suggestions such as lowering penalties for carjackings.
The Sentencing Project Executive Director Amy Fettig said, “We’re deeply disappointed by President Biden’s betrayal of D.C. autonomy and abandonment of evidence-based criminal justice policy.”
She added, “The bill to modernize D.C.’s criminal code is the product of 16 years of research, an expert commission, 51 public meetings, extensive public feedback, and robust negotiations,” adding without these changes “the District will remain governed by a century-old code ranked as one of the worst in the country.
“It’s a balanced, moderate, and long overdue update of the criminal code. That’s why prosecutors, defense attorneys, advocates, and the majority of Washingtonians supported these much-needed revisions to improve legal clarity, standardize penalties, and align the code with sentencing best practices,” said Fettig.
“This is consistent with Biden’s overall record on criminal justice reform since taking office, which has been abysmal,” said Rachel Barkow, a law professor at New York University.
“He hasn’t supported any significant legislative reforms, his clemency record is an embarrassment,” added Barkow, referencing alleged marijuana pardons, which freed a total of zero people from prison, and noted Biden’s DOJ is opposing “sensible compassionate release policies before the sentencing commission.”
Historically, Barkow said Biden has been known for being “tough on crime,” authoring a 1994 crime bill (The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act) that sabotaged many lives.
Barkow added Biden not only followed the trends of being harsh toward crime, but was the ringleader, and his current statement about the carjacking provision indicates that this reputation still follows him.
Biden’s critics said they are concerned Biden is moving to nullify the legislation not based on the legislation aiming to make D.C.’s criminal code clearer, but what is seen from Twitter conversations and newspaper editorials.