AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
America’s capital city is set to become even more of a haven for criminals after the Washington, D.C., City Council resoundingly voted last week to override Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser’s veto of a bill slashing prison sentences and virtually stopping prosecution of many crimes. The overhaul of the criminal justice system is an ominous sign for the city as residents suffer through a dramatic spike in crimes like carjackings and robberies, along with the highest number of murders in decades.
The new law, officially called the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022, was billed to the public as a measure to fix “outdated language,” clarify “proportional penalties,” and “define crimes” in the district. The bill was sold by advocates as a way to “modernize” D.C.’s criminal code, which had not undergone a full overhaul in more than 100 years.
In reality, however, the bill is effectively a handbook of policies pushed by radical left-wing criminal justice “reform” activists. In addition to nearly eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing and reducing maximum penalties for crimes like robbery and carjacking, the law also gives a break to incarcerated sex offenders, granting them a shot at early release.
Moreover, the law provides the right to a jury trial to everyone charged with any crimes, even misdemeanors. Court officials say the policy will overwhelm an already strained system and inhibit justice for victims of more serious crimes like rape and murder. The measure also legalizes nuisance and unsanitary behaviors like public consumption of alcohol and urination, raises the requirements for noise complaints, and makes it more difficult for police to enforce unauthorized use of vehicle offenses.
The 13-member D.C. City Council passed the law unanimously in November over strong objections from both court and law enforcement leaders. The law was too extreme even for Bowser, who has garnered a reputation as one of the most far-left mayors of any major U.S. city. Bowser vetoed the law, writing in a letter to City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson that “this bill does not make us safer.”
“I hear from DC residents daily who are most concerned about being attacked in their home, car, or on our streets,” Bowser continued. “Reducing the current legal penalties for these violent offenses sends the wrong message to our residents when we are using every resource in our government to drive down crime.” Bowser also specifically noted in her letter how, under the new revised code, the maximum prison sentence for arrestees possessing a gun with previous convictions for violent crimes will be reduced from 15 years to four years. The provision reveals a seeming inconsistency in progressive orthodoxy, as Democrats have historically crusaded on anti-gun policies. But now, ostensibly to advance “racial justice,” the D.C. City Council is enacting more lenient penalties for gun crimes.
Passage of the bill couldn’t come at a worse time for the capital city, which has experienced a devastating crime surge in recent years. The number of murders crossed the 200 mark for the third straight year in 2022, a sharp uptick from the 166 murders the city saw in 2019. Carjackings also rose for the fifth straight year in 2022, up 14% over 2021 and 26% over 2020.
The bill has met intense public backlash, yet the D.C. Council remains unfazed. They even have gone so far as to criticize Mayor Bower for her letter, suggesting her concerns are unfounded and will be used as right-wing talking points. Mendelson called Bowser’s rhetoric “irresponsible,” stating that “it plays into folks like the Freedom Caucus in Congress who are going to use the mayor’s veto and her rhetoric against us when this bill goes up towards Congress.”
Mendelson’s statement alludes to the fact that all D.C. city government legislation can be struck down by Congress. While House Republicans have already hinted that they may pass such a resolution, it would still require a majority vote in the Senate and a signature from President Joe Biden – an unlikely prospect given the prior support for just such policies shown by both Biden and Senate Democrats.
It seems that the residents of – and visitors to – America’s capital should brace themselves for another crime-ridden year ahead. Until city leaders reverse course, criminals will continue to enjoy short sentences and no accountability in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.