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December 22, 2020

DOJ produces huge "Final Report" from the work of the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice

The day before current Attorney General William Barr is stepping down, the US Department of Justice has released this 300+ page "Final Report" to conclude the work of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.  This press release provides the context for this big document:

Today, following months of virtual meetings, testimony and study, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr submitted the final report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice to the White House.  This report represents the first comprehensive study of law enforcement in more than 55 years.

On Oct. 28, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order No. 13896, which directed the Department of Justice to establish the “Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.”  The purpose of the Commission was to conduct a modern study of the state of American policing and determine specific measures to reduce crime and promote the rule of law.  At the conclusion of this study, the Commission was to issue a report.

“This report is the result of significant effort and commitment by hundreds of working group members, dozens of staff, nearly 200 individual testimonies, and of course the 18 distinguished commissioners, who, as I’ve said before, truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement,” said Attorney General Barr.  “We could not have foreseen the challenges 2020 would present when we set out to accomplish our goal of researching important current issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system.  Yet despite these challenges, the Commission produced a thoughtful and comprehensive report.”

At a ceremony in January 2020, Attorney General Barr announced the establishment of the Commission and the individuals who would serve as commissioners.  From January through July, the Commission met formally more than 50 times — adjusting to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic — with the goal of making improvements to American law enforcement for years to come.  Throughout that time, the Commission assembled a report that reviewed a variety of important issues affecting law enforcement and their capacity to safeguard American communities.

Though this big report is primarily about policing and is produced by a law enforcement agency rather than by an independent body, I still think it serves as a must-read for sentencing fans and reformers of all stripes.  Here, for example, is one paragraph from the report's executive summary that provides plenty of grist for any reformer's mill:

In addition to public programs that can better treat the social conditions that produce criminal behavior, there are additional elements of the criminal justice system that can complement law enforcement’s efforts.  Specifically, juvenile justice and reentry services are essential and remedial instruments of crime prevention and reduction.  These systems may assist in stopping troubled youths from committing crimes in the future, and also bring adults who have committed crimes in their past back to normal lives of peace and prosperity.  While law enforcement often puts the wheels of criminal justice into motion, there are many ways that judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and correctional officials — at various stages of the legal proceedings — can work towards a fairer and more just system that best serves victims, defendants, and the community at large in the collective goal of reducing crime.  To that end, the Commission recommends improved coordination among law enforcement and prosecutors; greater transparency among prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victims as to guilty plea agreements; increased use of treatment courts for certain categories of crimes and defendants; and a refined bail system based on public safety and accountability.

December 22, 2020 at 05:35 PM | Permalink

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