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Misdemeanors by the Numbers

Prosecuting minor offenses comes at a high cost for individuals and governments.

Virtual Event
  • Bria L. Gillum
  • ,
  • Josephine Hahn
  • ,
  • Jerry Clayton
  • Rosemary Nidiry
illustration of individuals caught up in a cyclical justice system

Misdemeanors, not violent offenses, dominate criminal justice. A decade of reforms has shrunk the sprawling misdemeanor system, but the prosecution of shoplifting, traffic violations, and other lesser offenses remains a burden on vulnerable communities and law enforcement resources even as public concern over physical and social disorder in public spaces spurs calls for renewed enforcement. 

A new Brennan Center report zooms in on New York City as a case study for how misdemeanor enforcement has changed in recent years, offering insights into the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and reform initiatives like the decriminalization of low-level drug possession. But even as overall caseloads have declined, stark racial disparities persist.   

Join us on Thursday, April 11, at 3 p.m. ET for a virtual discussion about this under-examined part of our criminal justice system with the MacArthur Foundation’s Bria Gillum, Brennan Center Senior Research Fellow Josephine Hahn, and Michigan county sheriff Jerry Clayton.

Produced in partnership with Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation


  • Bria L. Gillum, Senior Program Officer, MacArthur Foundation Criminal Justice Program
  • Josephine Hahn, Senior Research Fellow, Brennan Center Justice Program
  • Jerry Clayton, Sheriff, Washtenaw County, Michigan; member, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration
  • Moderator: Rosemary Nidiry, Senior Counsel, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, Brennan Center Justice Program


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