U.S. Senate Votes to Block DC’s Criminal Code Modernization  

By United States Senate – via wikipedia

By Michael McCutcheon

WASHINGTON, DC – Both The Sentencing Project and the Vera Institute of Justice last week released statements criticizing the U.S. Senate vote to block the D.C. Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 (RCCA), which was supported by 83 percent of Washington D.C. voters.

According to the Criminal Code Reform Commission (CCRC), the Washington, D.C., area is among a minority of jurisdictions that did not update their criminal code following American Law Institute’s issuance of the Model Penal Code in 1962.

The CCRC states “the District’s current criminal code has not undergone a comprehensive revision since its creation by Congress in 1901. It still uses a 19th century structure that relies heavily on court opinions to articulate the requirements for criminal liability.”

According to the RCCA Commission, the RCCA would have instituted a criminal code more similar to the Model Penal Code, modernizing it to be more like the majority of jurisdictions throughout the U.S.

On the Senate rejection of the RCCA, the Executive Director of The Sentencing Project, Amy Fettig, said, “Today’s bipartisan Senate vote rejecting common sense criminal justice reform signals a widespread abandonment of racial justice and evidence-based policy in favor of political posturing. This vote and the President’s remarks are a deeply concerning return to the scare-tactic politics of the 1990s.

“President Biden has called the 1994 Crime Bill a mistake. He pledged to cut incarceration rates in half. He vowed to end mandatory minimums. But two years into his term, federal prison populations have risen and those promises appear to be empty rhetoric…I urge President Biden to veto this bill and work toward meaningful change.”

Nicholas Turner, the president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice, seemed to largely agree with Fettig’s sentiments, noting, “The RCCA is the result of a 16-year process that is backed by evidence and research, a study of crime trends in Washington, D.C., and an analysis of how the courts currently approach sentencing.

“The proposed revisions are the product of robust debate and reflect the work of a diverse set of stakeholders – including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, local judges, advocates, and elected officials. Each provision, even those that are now being labeled as ‘dangerous’ or ‘going too far,’ are consistent with public safety and reflect existing sentencing practices in the District.

“It is irresponsible and disingenuous for the Biden administration and members of Congress to suggest that the RCCA is ‘going too far’ or is ‘too lenient’ on crimes like carjacking when the courts may still impose a decades-long sentence for this offense.”

Turner continued, “We are dumbfounded that the Senate gave in to misguided political considerations and fear of being labeled ‘soft on crime’ instead of listening to the 83 percent of registered Washington D.C. voters who support the evidence-based reforms in the RCCA.”

Turner added, “Congress’s disapproval of criminal code reform is an insult to the residents of our nation’s capital and will extend a harmful and inequitable status quo that Washingtonians fought to cast aside. Political gains achieved [through mischaracterizations] are an anachronism.

“Worse, they are secured at the expense of D.C. residents, the principle of local autonomy, and the fight for evidence-based criminal legal system reform, which—as it happens—is what the majority of American voters truly want and expect.”

About The Author

Michael is a senior at CSU Long Beach majoring in Criminology and Criminal Justice. After graduating with a BS, Michael plans to attend grad school and receive his Masters with a thesis on interrogation techniques.

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