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October 20, 2020

Trone, Armstrong Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reduce Jail Incarceration



Trone, Armstrong Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reduce Jail Incarceration

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Congressmen David Trone (D-MD) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) introduced the Community First Pretrial Reform and Jail Decarceration Act, which would create a Department of Justice grant program to incentivize local governments and community partners to invest in programs and policies that reduce jail populations and the number of days individuals spend in jail.

While large cities are making strides to reduce the number of people entering jails and prisons, rural counties and small and mid-size cities are experiencing a staggering increase in their jail populations. Incarceration rates in urban areas have declined by 22 percent since 2013 but have grown by 27% in rural counties and 7% in small and mid-sized cities over that same time. Additionally, these smaller communities are often left out of other federal grant programs aimed at reducing incarceration.

One of the leading factors driving the increase in incarceration rates is the expanded use of pretrial detention. Approximately two-thirds of people held in American jails are there awaiting trial and have been convicted of no crime. Even short stays in jail pretrial can have devastating consequences, such as job loss, loss of the custody of one’s children, and an increased likelihood of being convicted, receiving a harsh sentence, and involvement in the criminal justice system again in the future.

The Community First Pretrial Reform and Jail Decarceration Act would put communities at the center of decisions about public priorities and efforts to reduce jail incarceration with the goal of cutting jail populations in these communities by 50%. It would authorize $600 million in grants for local governments to develop and implement a strategic plan to decrease local jail incarceration. Grants could be used by communities to establish policies and programs to reduce pretrial incarceration rates including the elimination of cash bail, creating diversion programs, access to counsel, and other innovative and non-coercive decarceration efforts.

“Our current justice system has failed to work for the benefit of the people. We need to reimagine the policies and systems that have led us to this inflection point,” said Congressman David Trone. “This legislation will help reduce incarceration rates, reduce recidivism, and help make our justice system more just. I want to thank Congressman Armstrong and the Vera Institute for partnering with me on this critical legislation. We have to work together, Democrats and Republicans, if we want to create real, structural change for our criminal justice system.”

“A significant portion of incarcerated individuals in local jails are held in pretrial detention, said Congressman Kelly Armstrong. “This bill will help reduce incarceration rates and keep communities safe by implementing common sense reform.”

“Sending people to jail increases poverty, erodes public health, and makes entire communities more vulnerable to premature death—a reality that has become even starker during a global pandemic,” said Jasmine Heiss, Director of the In Our Backyards initiative at the Vera Institute of Justice. “Even as hospitals close and jobs dry up in rural America, jails have remained a first-line response to poverty and social problems. This important legislation represents an opportunity for federal leaders to break with that history and truly invest in the resilience of smalltown America, with a clear commitment to racial equity.”

“In too many places in the United States, the overuse and misuse of pretrial detention has resulted in unnecessarily large jail populations with unacceptable racial and ethnic disparities,” said Lars Trautman, Senior Fellow at the R Street Institute. “This bill will help improve our pretrial system by providing support to local jurisdictions trying to innovate toward a fairer, more equitable, and accountable pretrial system.”

To read bill text, click here.

To read a bill summary, click here.

Congressman David Trone was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2018 to serve the 6th District of Maryland, which includes all or part of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties. Trone serves on the Education and Labor, Foreign Affairs, and Joint Economic Committees, where he is fighting to make progress on issues that matter to Marylanders, including the opioid epidemic, criminal justice reform, and funding for medical research.