Overcriminalization and Criminal Justice Reform

One thing that is interesting is that overcriminalization has become so far-reaching and pervasive that even many traditionally conservative groups have criticized it like the Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, the Koch-affiliated groups, etc. The issue seems to be that the police state and overcriminalization has been so all-encompassing that it is now spilling over into the middle class and the business community, two sectors that were partially immune in the past.

There is broad, bipartisan support for reforming the criminal justice system, and groups across the political spectrum have long called on Congress to address the problem of “overcriminalization”—the overuse and misuse of criminal law. The tragic death of George Floyd raises this issue: Floyd was arrested and killed by police after he was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Many criminal justice reform advocates argue that such conduct should not be illegal in the first place, or that laws prohibiting non-violent crimes should not be enforced. How should the problem of overcriminalization be addressed? How might proposals to repeal or modify criminal laws change the nature of policing? In a July 8, 2020 webinar, a panel of experts discussed these issues. Participants: Kim Forde-Mazrui (UVA Law); Jason C. Johnson (Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund); Vikrant P. Reddy (Charles Koch Institute); Stephen F. Smith ’92 (Notre Dame Law School); Moderator Barbara E. Armacost ’89 (UVA Law)

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