May 12, 2022

DISPATCHES FROM THE BLUEST OF THE BLUE ZONES: Despite Rising Crime, Nation’s Capital Is at Forefront of Cities Pushing Leniency.

This more lenient approach to child sexual abuse is just one of many changes being considered by the council. A sweeping new criminal code would redefine what counts as a crime in the nation’s capital, how those accused of crimes are tried, and how those convicted are punished.

Although many states are pushing back against progressive criminal justice reforms amid rising rates of violent crime, liberal jurisdictions from east to west continue to push for more lenient sentencing. Washington, D.C., stands out for its softer approach in the face of a crime problem illustrated by a homicide rate that jumped from 24 per 100,000 residents in 2019, to 29 in 2020, and then to 34 in 2021.

Proponents say the changes are designed to reduce the number of people arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated. As it now stands, the District’s criminal code ‘’is out-of-sync with current public norms and best practices,” according to Richard Schmechel, a prime mover of its reform effort. Schmechel, until recently executive director of the D.C. Criminal Code Reform Commission, said the new approach will reduce “errors, arbitrariness, and bias” in the current system.

But critics warn that the changes now being considered will make it difficult to hold offenders responsible for crimes.

Washington’s black neighborhoods will pay — are paying — the price for the progressive gentry’s largesse.

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