Criminal Justice Reform: Obama Calls for Better Data to Support Shift to Treatment and Prevention
In a recent panel discussion at the White House on Thursday, Oct. 22, President Obama, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, and U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh discussed focused on criminal justice reform.
The group discussed how there is widespread support in Congress for criminal justice reform on both sides of the aisle. Republicans and Democrats alike are considering bills to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for many low-level drug and weapons offenses. The President urged law enforcement leaders in the audience to seize this moment of bipartisan cooperation for legislative action. He described mandatory sentence reduction and early-release efforts as “low hanging fruit,” paving the way for deeper systemic change. He advocated for slow, steady progress with graduated implementation allowing for assessment and review.
Also, President Obama and Chief Beck emphasized the need to focus more on crime prevention and community-based solutions as well as on effective alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. Beck is a member of the recently-formed Law Enforcement Leaders, a coalition of more than 150 current and former police chiefs, federal and state prosecutors and attorneys general from all 50 states working to reduce both unnecessary incarceration and crime. He said that incarceration is not necessarily the most effective “pathway” for crimes involving addictions and mental illness, and that the $80 billion spent annually on incarceration is not the best use of our country’s resources.
President Obama said that effective data collection and a culture of transparency are essential for a shift to treatment and prevention. Accurate data and effective technology enable law enforcement to target areas where actual crime is prevalent, and can also help to identify early-stage problems in the police-community relationship. He criticized the nation’s current data collection practices as inadequate, expressing hope that his administration will effect positive change in this regard.
This need for increased data has been a primary focus for BI Incorporated and GEO Reentry, both companies of the GEO Care division. BI is focused on data analytics that help agencies extract useful and predictive data from years of electronic monitoring data in an effort to reduce criminal activity. GEO Reentry, with its evidence-based reentry programs, including day reporting centers, in-custody treatment and training and residential reentry programs, is investing millions of dollars to develop evidence-based programs that can be replicated nationwide. It is working with several jurisdictions and researchers to validate reentry programs that deliver demonstrable results, exactly what President Obama, Police Chief Beck, and U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh suggested.