The following statement can be attributed to Damon King, Policy Director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia:
“We strongly urge Congress to respect the District of Columbia’s decision to pass the Revised Criminal Code Act (RCCA) and to vote no on any resolution or rider that undermines the ability of District residents to make our laws and manage our tax dollars.
The 700,000 people living in D.C. are like those in any other state. We are students, veterans, nurses, families, and neighbors. Like people in every state, we deserve to govern ourselves, as a matter of democracy and self-determination, but also because we know our communities better than anyone else.
The Revised Criminal Code Act is necessary and long-overdue legislation. As the D.C. Council has documented in detail, our criminal code, which has not undergone systematic review since originally codified in 1901, suffers from unclear provisions, overlapping or outdated offenses, and inconsistent approaches to penalties. These structural problems have caused judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to spend countless hours litigating the meaning of our criminal laws and undermined the civil rights and liberties of all District residents.
In revising its criminal code, the District followed an extensive public process led by an independent, non-partisan Commission. The Commission considered a range of data, including model legislation, criminal statutes in other jurisdictions, and D.C. sentencing practices under current law. The Commission also drew on the expertise of an Advisory Group of legal experts, including representatives of the offices of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia. The D.C. Council voted unanimously to pass the RCCA and the RCCA is supported by 83% of District voters. Criminal code revisions are not new or uncommon, as 29 other states, including Arizona and Montana, have modernized their criminal codes since the 1960s. Disapproving the Revised Criminal Code Act would be a shameful insult to District residents, undo years of work to create well-informed legislation, and leave the District to continue dealing with the consequences of an outdated criminal code.
As is the case with all states, District residents deserve the right to make our laws and manage our tax dollars. This latest incursion into D.C. democracy illustrates why, in addition to respecting the District’s home rule on the RCCA, Congress must grant District residents statehood. Like people all across this country, our families and neighbors need the autonomy to govern ourselves.”