WASHINGTON, DC- Guess we can file this under be careful what you ask for.
In Washington, D.C., a criminal justice reform advocate who led efforts in the city to enact a number of changes to the city’s criminal code, including the reduction of sentences for criminals, was given a lesson Tuesday on why that isn’t such a great idea. Unfortunately for him, he won’t be around to see the results of his advocacy.
Kelvin Blowe, 32, was shot and killed this week only hours before the reforms he advocated for were passed into law by the DC city council, Fox News reports.
Blowe had worked at the DC Justice Lab as a policy and advocacy associate, and testified before the city council about reformation of DC’s criminal justice system.
On Nov. 15, Blowe was on his way home from working as a security guard when he was shot and killed in southeastern DC.
“It’s kind of hard to put into words what it feels like to see his work come to fruition without being able to share in that celebration with him,” Patrice Sulton, Executive Director of the DC Justice Lab told Fox 5 in Washington.
“In some ways, the timing of it is an added injury on top of the loss. And I think we lost a really powerful voice in a really important movement and that’s not something that we’ll be able to replace.”
Sulton did not appear to understand the irony in her statement.
The reform bill was passed by the city council only hours after Blowe’s death. Under the measure, which has yet to be signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, it will eliminate most mandatory minimum sentences, expand the list of crimes eligible for jury trials, and reduce maximum penalties for serious crimes such as burglaries, carjackings and robberies, the Washington Post reported.
Blowe was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and had struggled with PTSD and drugs after leaving the military. He served a 66-month prison term, which led to his efforts to help others blend back into society after their prison terms were over.
“We have to learn to love each other and bring the city together—that’s what my nephew was trying to do,” Rev. Keith Johnson, Blowe’s uncle told Fox 5 DC. Johnson helped raise Blowe and his brothers, the outlet reported.
Blowe’s efforts will result in emptying jails and prisons while releasing criminals back out onto the streets more quickly.
Recent statistics on recidivism is hard to find, however according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report on recidivism rates for prisoners in 34 states between 2012 and 2017, nearly 70 percent of those released from prison were rearrested within five years.
According to the methodology used, BJS researchers randomly sampled 92,100 prisoners as a sample of 408,300 state prisoners released across 34 states in 2012. Those states were responsible for approximately 79 percent of all people released from prisons nationwide in 2012.
Of those numbers, one in three prisoners released after serving time in prison for assault were rearrested for assault within five years. In addition, prisoners released after serving time for property offenses were more likely than not to be rearrested for a property offense.
According to the Prison Population Initiative, released prisoners often face a number of barriers to successful reentry into society. Those barriers range from difficulty finding employment, affordable housing, and physical and mental health care, which explains by many released inmates reoffend within only a few years after release.
Blowe’s untimely death came as he was driving some of his colleagues home from his job as a security guard. He became involved in an automobile accident. Upon exiting his vehicle, he was shot dead by someone in the street. According to DC Metro Police, no motive for the shooting has been found as of yet, and the case remains under investigation, Hot Air reports.
A senseless killing for sure, however in a city where the murder rate has reached a fifteen-year high, going easy on criminals is probably a fool’s errand. Under the proposed bill, pretty much anything less than second-degree murder will result in criminals going free without bail.
The timing of the bill’s passing is also convenient for members of the city council, taking place right after the elections. With the election now safely behind them, members of the DC City Council will have nobody to answer to until 2024.
And given the clear short-term memory held by voters in the country, this will likely be a distant memory in two years.
Unfortunately for Kelvin Blowe, the very reforms he is advocating for will likely put others such as his killer back on the streets of DC. And someone else will likely pay with their life.
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.