Trump and Sessions peddle fear instead of solutions to crime
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To work for all of us, our criminal justice system should be equipped to address contemporary challenges and be supported by evidence-backed practices, as informed by actual data. 

However, some politicians are trying to divide us by furthering a narrative based on fear and anxiety to advance an ineffective criminal justice agenda. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsIntel leaders: Collusion still open part of investigation Republicans jockey for position on immigration Biden to Alabama: No more extremist senators MORE, Secretary John Kelly, and President Trump have all taken to spreading sloppy and cherry-picked crime data to justify their plans for an expanded police state in America.

Sessions recently wrote an editorial piece, suggesting that there is a nationwide crime wave in the United States. Sessions argues that we need less accountability and less transparency in policing, demonstrating his passion for a free rein, and unaccountable, policing.

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President Trump frequently paints a picture of an urban America riddled with widespread decay and bloodbaths. Meanwhile, people living in America’s cities are concerned about access to affordable housing because living in many American cities has become so desirable that affordable housing is scant and gentrification widespread.

 

Trump and Session’s obsession with relying on hyperbole and extreme metaphors to advance a fear-based narrative about crime in America has left them out of touch with what’s actually happening on the ground.

In fact, the Brennan Center recently published a report that analyzes crime statistics from 2010-2016. While there is an overall increase of 2.9 percent of crime in the United States, the crime rate remains at historic lows. There is also a 13 percent increase in the homicide rate, which mostly stems from homicides increases in three cities – Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Sessions and Trump often cherry pick these outlier cities to advance a nationwide agenda to allow the police to act with impunity.

However, they frequently ignore the success of cities like New York in decreasing crime while simultaneously reducing abusive police practices, such as widespread use of stop and frisk. Trump and Sessions rarely mention the successes of these cities because they are inconsistent with their framework, which relies on stirring anxieties and creating confusion. 

Thankfully, Americans don’t share Sessions and Trump’s delusions about criminal justice issues. Most Americans think that police need to held accountable for their conduct, just like anyone else would be. Americans are in favor of criminal justice policies that focus on rehabilitation and prevention.

There are many programs that ensure that rehabilitation can occur, including initiatives that incentivize early release, pre-trial diversion programs, restorative justice programs that prevent incarceration, and community based programs that rely on early interventions.

Policymakers should focus on learning from programs like these that have been successful at reducing their crime rates while improving their human rights practices. 

Instead of giving police officer free (and unaccountable) rein to surveil poor communities of color, the federal government should incentivize initiatives that improve police-community relations, adopt pre-arrest diversion programs, and support social service organizations that have been effective at decreasing violence

Law enforcement officers benefit when people view them as being legitimate and held to the same standards as other community members. Despite this hostile climate from the top officials of the federal government, we are still in the right moment to advance these types of initiatives that increase law enforcement accountability and public safety.

While the federal executive branch has indicated an unwillingness to do its job and hold police officers accountable, it’s time for the federal legislature and state and local governments to step up.

Moreover, policymakers should reject Trump’s narrative about the American crime and continue the course of promoting criminal justice policies that actually improve the safety of our communities.

I. India Thusi is the associate counsel for The Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communication lab. She has litigated cases on policing and structural inequality in the criminal justice system. Follow her on Twitter @inGerri, and the Opportunity Agenda @oppagenda.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.