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Criminal Justice

Committee Chair: Carol Elder Bruce, Murphy & McGonigle, P.C. 

Since the Council for Court Excellence’s (CCE) inception in 1982, the Criminal Justice Committee has diligently researched the most important, urgent issues facing the District of Columbia’s criminal justice system, and recommended policy and practice reforms to benefit everyone involved, from defendants, victims, prosecutors and defense attorneys, to judges, law enforcement, and corrections personnel.

Over the last 37 years, the Criminal Justice Committee has worked on issues as varied as sentencing reform, police overtime, criminal record sealing and expungement, disorderly conduct statutes, perceptions of public safety, barriers to employment for returning citizens, and the treatment afforded people with mental illness by the criminal justice system. Recommendations by the Criminal Justice Committee are taken seriously by DC Council, the courts, and other institutions within the criminal justice system, and have resulted in amendments to the criminal code and the creation of several laws regarding re-entry from prison and jail.

Some of the projects include:

Parole and Clemency - CCE will build on the amicus brief filed in a parole case, Bailey v. Smoot, in 2015 and the work of the Community Justice Project at Georgetown Law in 2016, under CCE’s auspices, to develop a blueprint for a local clemency board. CCE will design projects that aim to increase DC Code offenders’ access to clemency and parole grants, and that safely and smartly minimize revocations of parole, probation, and supervised release.

Mental Health - People with mental illness are disproportionately involved in DC’s criminal justice system. CCE will carry out projects that are designed to divert people with mental illness from DC’s criminal justice system prior to arrest, and projects that ensure people with mental illness who are already involved in the criminal justice system have access to quality mental health care at every stage from arrest through re-entry. 

The Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA) - MORCA is statutorily tasked with coordinating and monitoring services for people returning home from prison and jail to DC, and with making policy recommendations regarding re-entry to the mayor. CCE will work to assist MORCA with creating a strategic plan that has stakeholder buy-in and expanding the office’s budget as necessary to fulfil its statutory mandate.

Employment Opportunities for Returning Citizens - People returning home to DC from prison and jail routinely cite their greatest need as being the need to find a source of income. CCE will aim to develop ideas to incentivize employers, amend occupational licensing laws, and better aligning job training offered to incarcerated people and returning citizens with growing sectors of employment in DC.

Criminal Records - CCE’s research and expertise was crucial to the passage of DC’s first criminal record sealing and expungement act in 2006 and its amendment in 2013. CCE will work to ensure the processes and eligibility for record sealing, expungement, and vacatur in DC are reformed, and to hold private reporting companies accountable for maintaining accurate records.

Recent publications: 

Improving Mental Health Services and Outcomes for All: The D.C. Department of Behavioral Health and the Justice System (2018)

From Prisons to Professions: Increasing Access to Occupational and Professional Licenses for D.C.'s Returning Citizens (2017)

Beyond Second Chances: Returning Citizens' Re-Entry Struggles and Successes in the District of Columbia (2016)

Perceptions of Public Safety (2015)


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