It has been a year since D.C. Superior Court’s misdemeanor courtrooms closed. With the exception of domestic violence charges, almost no one is confined at the D.C. Jail for a misdemeanor today. This experiment in “decarceration” is the result of police, prosecutors and judges seeking to not prosecute or cage petty offenders during a deadly pandemic. Although this effort began in response to covid-19, the lessons learned reach well beyond today’s crisis. It turns out these prosecutions are unnecessary and do more harm than good.
When the pandemic threat ends, this policy should not. The U.S. attorney’s office should stop criminally prosecuting nonviolent misdemeanors.