Press Release

The Sentencing Project Condemns House Oversight and Accountability Committee Vote to Advance the DC CRIMES Act

The Sentencing Project joined nearly 50 local and national organizations in a letter to House leadership opposing the DC CRIMES Act.

Related to: Sentencing Reform, Racial Justice, Youth Justice

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Accountability Committee voted to advance the DC CRIMES Act. The legislation would amend the Home Rule Act to remove the DC’s ability to change its sentencing laws and dramatically limit DC’s Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA). The YRA allows emerging adults convicted of certain crimes as adults to receive age-appropriate sentences and rehabilitative services and to potentially have their record sealed following the completion of their sentence to facilitate their reentry. The Sentencing Project joined nearly 50 local and national organizations in a letter to House leadership opposing the bill.

Liz Komar, Sentencing Reform Counsel with The Sentencing Project, released the following statement.

“The DC CRIMES Act is an attack on Home Rule and public safety. Earlier this week, after robust debate and community feedback, the DC Council passed a sweeping crime bill, the Secure DC Act. While many Washingtonians have criticized the harshness of that bill, it nonetheless reflects that the DC Council is more than willing to respond to constituent concerns about crime. The DC CRIMES Act ignores that reality and is a blatant attempt to chip away at Home Rule and local democracy, not improve public safety. If the authors of this bill were serious about public safety, the DC CRIMES Act would not also include roll backs to the successful Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA). Limiting the YRA will not strengthen communities, instead it will deepen racial disparities and increase incarceration. We urge Congressmembers to vote against this bill if it comes to the floor.”

The DC CRIMES Act would have a number of detrimental effects:

  1. Eroding DC Residents’ Right to Self-Governance. Section 4 of the DC CRIMES Act would amend the Home Rule Act to prevent the DC Council from “‘enact[ing] any act, resolution, or rule to change any criminal liability sentence.” This amendment is intended to bar the DC Council from raising or lowering sentences and the DC Sentencing Commission from amending any sentencing guidelines. Therefore, the DC CRIMES Act would also harm the District’s ability to respond rapidly and effectively to emergent needs for sentencing changes. Relying on Congress, with its already significant legislative burden, to pass all changes to sentencing laws and guidelines would impair the District’s ability to ever change its sentencing laws and guidelines in a timely manner. It would also erode the autonomy of a jurisdiction where people of color are the majority.
  2. Limiting the Youth Rehabilitation Act and Harming Public Safety. An analysis by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council found that “a YRA sentence was significantly associated with fewer rearrests among youth offenders ages 22 to 24.” It also found that persons whose convictions were ‘set aside’ (sealed) were likely to have a lower number of rearrests and reconvictions than persons whose convictions were not set aside, controlling for other factors.
  3. Increasing the Incarceration of Young Black Men. Severe racial disparities plague DC’s criminal legal system and Black young adults are dramatically overrepresented. According to a 2020 report from the Justice Policy Institute:

Black young adults, a fraction of the District’s population (5.5 percent), account for the overwhelming majority of people experiencing justice system involvement. Despite only comprising 1 in 18 District residents, Black young adults represented 1 in 5 arrests, 1 in 4 arrests for a violent crime, and 1 in 3 individuals sentenced to incarceration. This degree of disproportionate justice system involvement underscores how evidence-based, developmentally appropriate interventions targeting emerging adults can have an outsized impact on public safety.

The Youth Rehabilitation Act is vital for addressing these disparities and ensuring that young adults have access to rehabilitative services. Of the 1,207 individuals who were YRA-sentence eligible in 2019-2020, 89.8% were Black.



The Sentencing Project advocates for effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.

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