Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Congressional Briefing and More


Yesterday, we convened our first-ever congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. The topic was "Innovation in Hard Times: How to Reduce Both Crime and Incarceration" and our speakers included Jonathan Lippman (New York State Chief Judge), Jim Burch (Acting Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance), Tim Murray (Pretrial Justice Institute) and Chris Watler (Harlem Community Justice Center). Having never done one of these before, I didn't really know what to expect, but it seemed to go well --we had a standing-room only crowd and there was lots of positive chatter afterwards. While the conversation was wide-ranging, covering everything from reentry to pretrial reform, I think the basic message to the assembled congressional staffers was that we shouldn't be complacent about crime reductions (a point echoed in a recent USA Today editorial) and that we should seize this moment to also reduce the unnecessary use of jail and prison.

After the panel, I did several other meetings in DC, including a visit with Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. Among other things, she reaffirmed the Justice Department's commitment to drug courts and problem-solving justice in general. Attorney General Holder made a similar point in his recent speech at the drug court conference in Boston.

PS. By chance, I sat next to the founder of Craigslist on the train to DC. He seemed like a good guy.