Mass Incarceration

D.C. officials demand ‘accountability’ for crime. Defining it is harder.

D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III stood behind crime-scene tape draped throughout 4 lanes of Georgia Avenue, the night rush hour dropped at an abrupt halt by a hail of gunfire that killed one man and injured three others, together with an 8-year-old baby.

He recited the sparse particulars of the Jan. 3 taking pictures and expressed anger, a grim ritual he has repeated typically in his two years operating the pressure within the nation’s capital. He did so once more on Jan. 11 after two kids and a person have been shot and wounded exiting a Metrobus in Northwest D.C.

At each taking pictures scenes, Contee stated he hoped the group calls for “accountability” for these concerned — turning to a phrase he and different metropolis leaders have used ceaselessly as gunfire has generated headlines and claimed kids’s lives.

The phrase has turn into a type of rallying cry for metropolis officers struggling to know and confront what drives crime. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) used it in her inaugural address. Town’s new deputy mayor for public security mentioned it in her first interview with a reporter after being tapped for the brand new job. It’s a daily a part of Contee’s crime scene lexicon.

However the accountability they seek advice from is commonly imprecise — which means various things to totally different individuals, or meant to indicate that another person, or another establishment, must do extra.

Judges too lenient. Police too robust. Not robust sufficient. Too many cops. Too few. Legislation enforcement not trusted. Defund the police. Fractured houses. Lack of metropolis sources. Substandard colleges. Nothing for youths to do. Catch and launch. Substandard arrests. Prosecutors drop instances. Judges set criminals free. Various justice. Restorative justice. No justice. No accountability.

Violent crime in the District dropped 7 p.c final 12 months in contrast with 2021, with reductions in shootings and homicides. However carjackings, gunfire heard in neighborhoods and violence impacting young people continues to be a problem. The brand new 12 months has introduced little reduction: six killings within the first week of 2023 alone.

On Jan. 7, police say, a person fatally shot a 13-year-old, Karon Blake, whom he claimed to have seen breaking into automobiles in Northeast Washington. The taking pictures has fueled calls to carry the shooter to account, placing police and prosecutors on the defensive.

Residents, together with activists and Karon’s household, packed a group assembly a number of days later to angrily demand police rapidly arrest the shooter. Simply earlier than the assembly, Contee had held a information convention in regards to the incident, once more utilizing the phrase “accountability” and calling on residents to exhibit “the identical ardour when we’ve different homicides that occur in our metropolis.”

D.C. officers insist they aren’t shifting blame by demanding accountability, however as a substitute declaring that police are however one half of a bigger ecosystem that features a dozen or extra prison justice entities that every one deserve scrutiny.

Homicides drop in D.C., but mayor calls youth violence an emergency

Bowser, caught between a reformist Council looking for options to policing and residents wanting harsh penalties for offenders, has stated she is pursuing a multifaceted strategy. She helps resolving underlying points corresponding to poverty and dependancy, and has put cash into different justice applications corresponding to violence interrupters to mediate conflicts. However she can be underneath strain to cease shootings which are taking place now, and has pushed for a bigger police pressure and harder penalties for offenders.

Earlier this month, Bowser vetoed laws revising the District’s criminal code, saying it undermines public security by lowering most sentences for some critical crimes. Council members on Tuesday voted to override her veto, saying the revisions stiffen penalties for repeat violent offenders and produce sentences extra in step with what judges are literally doling out.

The union representing D.C. cops says lawmakers shirked accountability by enacting legal guidelines limiting police ways and shrinking the scale of the pressure, and are complicit in “a tragic lack of life and a horrific improve within the variety of victims experiencing violent crime.”

D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who beforehand chaired the police oversight committee and have become a major goal of the police labor group, stated accountability for crime can solely be achieved when “there’s a truthful and trusted” judicial system.

With out it, the lawmaker stated in an interview, it “undermines all the things.”

To activists, metropolis officers’ use of the phrase “accountability” is code for mass incarceration, reminiscent of the old-style, robust policing they’re attempting to alter.

Authorities “can’t police your method out of crime. You may’t cage your method out of crime. And so if that’s what they really feel … accountability is, D.C.’s in bother,” stated Nee Nee Taylor, co-conductor for Harriet’s Wildest Desires, a Black-led mutual assist and group protection group.

Bowser and others in her administration dispute that. In her inaugural address earlier this month, Bowser outlined the time period by saying, “We all know, particularly for our younger individuals, that typically accountability isn’t punishment, it’s a lifeline” to make sure individuals on the margins “get assist and that they perceive the results of their actions.”

As youth shootings soar, D.C. officials vow to bolster efforts

In an interview, Contee additionally denied accountability means locking individuals up. He stated he makes use of the time period in its broadest sense — holding the prison justice system, together with judges, prosecutors and people supervising offenders, to account. He additionally contains colleges, social applications and every other entity that impacts or influences life selections.

“The police get held accountable for any and all the things,” Contee stated. “The place else does that occur?” He added, although, that he contains his personal division in demanding accountability.

“All I’m saying is that it’s all of us,” he stated.

Contee stated he doesn’t consider residents are happy with the outcomes of prison instances, and that it’s as much as the group to resolve what is appropriate. He questioned whether or not suspected offenders, significantly juveniles, are adequately supervised and given the assistance they want. Ought to an arrested youth, he requested, be launched “again right into a household the place there’s no construction, the place among the issues that exist in that setting maybe contributed to this child being on the street robbing individuals?”

At a group stroll earlier this month with Bowser and different officers in Southeast Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood, following a deadly taking pictures exterior a restaurant, members supplied their very own opinions on what accountability means:

Council member Trayon White Sr. (D), of Ward 8, the place gun violence is prevalent, stated, “Accountability is a common precept. Everybody. Grandma. Auntie. Nephew. Instructor. Principal. Upkeep man. Publish workplace employee. Bus driver. Council member. Mayor. All of us should be accountable. We’ve to hear and do all the things in our energy to handle the wants regardless of the political variations.”

D.C. Director of Gun Violence Prevention Linda Harllee Harper stated, “I believe it’s to verify we’re all being good stewards of public values. … I believe individuals really feel just like the pendulum has swung too far-off from accountability.”

Ron Moten, Peaceoholics founder and activist, stated, “Lots of people in our group have been outraged by mass incarceration … however we weren’t combating for individuals murdering individuals in our group to be let again out the day after they commit the crime with out a technique.”

Makhia McCollough, an 18-year-old who lives in Ward 8 and is enrolled in a mentorship program, stated, “Accountability means to me when that you must take cost of your group and never simply to your self.”

The District’s newly elected lawyer basic, Brian Schwalb, whose workplace prosecutes juvenile offenders, stated “actual accountability ends in individuals on the finish of the day altering their conduct. Accountability for younger individuals is oftentimes an appreciation they’ve achieved one thing they shouldn’t have achieved, and a dedication to not doing it once more.”

On the taking pictures scene on Georgia Avenue on Jan. 3, Contee famous the incident occurred not solely throughout rush hour, however close to a police station. Police haven’t made an arrest.

“We do not know why somebody would do such a reckless act at 6 p.m. on Georgia Avenue,” Contee stated. “However we purpose to search out out and maintain these people accountable.”

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Tha Bosslady

CREEDD (Creative Resilient Empowered Entrepreneurs and Diversified Dreamers) is a dynamic and purpose-driven platform that I founded with a deep commitment to empowering individuals facing adversity. It serves as a sanctuary where people can find solace, support, and valuable resources to navigate life's challenges while uncovering their true potential. My personal journey of enduring loss, tragedy, and life's complexities propelled me to establish CREEDD with a profound understanding of the human spirit's resilience. Having faced the heart-wrenching loss of my daughter to gun violence, my stepdaughter's survival after losing an eye to domestic violence, and witnessing my only biological son receiving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime, I am no stranger to life's darkest moments. In addition to my own struggles, I experienced health challenges that led me to undergo a tracheotomy. The most devastating blow came when my stepdaughter and granddaughter tragically lost their lives in a horrific car accident. Yet, it is precisely through these trials that I gained invaluable insights and unwavering determination to inspire others. CREEDD is more than a community; it's a lifeline for those seeking hope, inspiration, and empowerment. By sharing my personal story and the lessons learned, I aspire to ignite a spark of resilience within every member, encouraging them to rise above their challenges and embrace their unique journeys. At CREEDD, we believe in the transformative power of storytelling. It is through these stories that we connect with others who have endured similar struggles, creating an unbreakable bond of understanding and support. Our platform fosters an environment of empowerment, providing resources, educational content, and opportunities for personal growth. Our ultimate goal is to leave a lasting and positive impact on the lives of those who join CREEDD. We envision a ripple effect of change, where individuals find the courage to rewrite their narratives, rediscover their purpose, and lead lives filled with resilience and fulfillment. Together, we form a community of diverse dreamers, each on their unique path of transformation. At CREEDD, we embrace growth, uplift one another, and become beacons of hope. Join us on this transformative journey and witness the power of unity, compassion, and the unwavering pursuit of living life on purpose, no matter the adversities we face.

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