Hennepin Co. sheriff, other law officers want to shrink national prison population

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The very people tasked with arresting and prosecuting criminals are coming together in Washington, D.C., to urge lawmakers to reduce America's growing prison population – and one top Minnesota lawman is among them.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek is one of 130 sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors from across the country who on Wednesday launched Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, which will meet with President Obama on Thursday, a news release says.

"I have seen first-hand the consequences of locking up too many people for low-level offenses," Sheriff Stanek said in the release. “It can kick-start a cycle of incarceration that turns first-time offenders into repeat offenders.”

The nationwide coalition says "unnecessary incarceration does not work to reduce crime, wastes taxpayer dollars, damages families and divides communities."

The group points out that the United States is home to 25 percent of the world's prisoners – despite having only 5 percent of the world's population.

While in Washington, the coalition will try to persuade lawmakers to consider changing "laws and policies that prevent law enforcement from doing their jobs effectively," the release says.

More specifically, the organization wants Congress and state legislatures to restructure criminal codes to remove "petty or duplicative offenses" where appropriate, and to reclassify nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors, with the aim of reserving prisons for only violent offenders, according to the official website.

"Police and prosecutors are often left to enforce overly harsh laws, resulting in too many people arrested and imprisoned for too long," the website says.

Meanwhile, the White House is voicing its support for a bipartisan Senate bill that would "reduce prison sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders," the Associated Press reports.

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