A View From the Hill: U.S. Congressman Cedric Richmond

Congressman Cedric Richmond, D-La., provided remarks about the need for reform to our criminal justice system and underscored the promising nature of the bipartisan support for change. Richmond has extensive familiarity with the criminal justice system, having practiced as a criminal defense attorney in New Orleans before becoming a legislator.

He summed up the problem with “tough on crime” approaches to criminal justice policy, noting how such an emphasis on incarceration has torn families and communities apart, strained state budgets, and ultimately proven ineffective in deterring crime. His own experience as a state legislator taught him the extent to which mandatory minimums, such as life in prison for a first-time low-level heroin distribution offense, do not achieve their intended effect and disproportionately punish some criminal conduct compared to others.

Richmond emphasized the importance of maintaining, if not increasing, the momentum displayed by the range of advocacy and public interest organizations that convened at Advancing Justice in order to transform the lessons learned into lasting policy change. The congressman’s remarks touched upon many important issues related to criminal justice reform and showcased the extent to which support for these issues can transcend traditional partisan divides.

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