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A clarion call for criminal law reform: momentum is clear

Placing too much emphasis on a prison-before-all-other-alternatives sentencing philosophy adversely affects "smart policing tactics," states a letter recently penned by a national group of law enforcers.

It is seemingly hard to find many Americans these days who disagree with that notion. Indeed, and as evidenced by a spate of reports and news stories over the past year-plus, there is growing -- and broadly bipartisan -- agreement in North Carolina and virtually everywhere else across the United States that material reforms are an urgent imperative.

Thus, the above-cited letter, authored by a national coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs and other principals in the criminal justice administrations and collectively representing the view of more than 30,000 people, seems a fairly par-for-the-course communication these days. Moreover, it clearly stands as an effort that is firmly subscribed to by the broad populace.

Notwithstanding that it will likely resonate with many people, it might reasonably strike a good many readers as somewhat strange for its statement that reducing America's high incarceration rate to better promote important policing and enforcement objectives "may seem counter-intuitive."

Indeed not, at least to legions of Americans who have reasonably known for years that too many people are languishing behind bars and that criminal law reforms must be tied to logic and truly meaningful change.

A media report on the above-cited letter (which calls upon both presidential candidates to support major criminal justice changes) notes the communication's acknowledgment "that overly harsh drug sentencing laws have swelled prison populations to the point where other aspects of law enforcement are being undercut."

What thoughtful person who has dwelled upon America's justice system hasn't known that for some time, as well as that no one is served by lengthy lockups for first-time nonviolent offenders?

The letter urges a stronger focus on diversion initiatives and an emphasis "away from petty crimes."

Truly, the correspondence is anything but revolutionary. In fact, it might even be materially tardy, given that it simply states what high numbers of Americans have already been endorsing for years.

And that is this: The American criminal justice system has serious flaws that need to be immediately addressed and rectified.

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