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November 11, 2014

Notable past remarks by AG-nominee Lynch on criminal justice reform to the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

DownloadI just came across these remarks delivered by Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch in August 2014 to the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Switzerland as part of the US delegation. These remarks were intended to share with the Convention "some of the highlights of the Department of Justice’s efforts to eliminate racial discrimination and uphold human rights in the area of criminal justice."

The remarks are largely just a summary of many of the criminal justice reforms championed by Attorney General Eric Holder, but it will be interesting to see if the remarks garner special scrutiny as part of the Senate's confirmation process. Here are excerpts:

[T]he department has made great progress in reforming America’s criminal justice system. Our focus is not just on the prosecution of crime, but on eradicating its root causes as well as providing support for those re-entering society after having paid their debt to it.

There is, of course, much work still to be done. Currently our country imprisons approximately 2.2 million people, disproportionately people of color. This situation is a drain on both precious resources and human capital. The Attorney General is committed to reform of this aspect of our criminal justice system.

Last August the Attorney General announced the “Smart on Crime” initiative. Under this initiative, we’re ensuring that stringent mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal drug crimes will now be reserved for the most serious criminals. This is not an abandonment of prison as a means to reduce crime, but rather a recognition that, quite often, less prison can also work to reduce crime. We’re advancing alternative programs in place of incarceration in appropriate cases. And we’re committed to providing formerly incarcerated people with fair opportunities to rejoin their communities and become productive, law-abiding citizens.

As part of this effort, the Attorney General has directed every component of the Justice Department to review proposed rules, regulations or guidance with an eye to whether they may impose collateral consequences that may prevent reintegration into society. He has called upon state leaders to do the same, with a particular focus on enacting reforms to restore voting rights to those who have served their debt to society, thus ending the chain of permanent disenfranchisement that visits many of them.

To further ensure that the elimination of discrimination is an ongoing priority, the Attorney General has created a Racial Disparities Working Group, led by the U.S. Attorney community, to identify policies that result in unwarranted disparities within criminal justice and to eliminate those disparities as quickly as possible.

From the reduction of the use of solitary confinement, to the expansion of the federal clemency program, to our support for the retroactive reduction of penalties for non-violent drug offenders to the reduction in the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, we have worked to improve our criminal justice system in furtherance of our human rights treaty obligations. We look forward to the future and the opportunity to do even more.

Obviously, if Loretta Lynch become the next US Attorney General, she will be in a great position to seize "the opportunity to do even more" with respect to criminal justice reform. I wonder what she might have in mind.

A few recent related posts:

November 11, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Permalink


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And she was also responsible for giving relief to Francois Holloway, a federal prisoner who had no other options for attacking his conviction or sentence. At the prompting of the court, she agreed to vacate two of his 924(c) convictions. You previously covered this. That says a lot about her willingness to do justice.

Posted by: Brandon Sample | Nov 11, 2014 7:40:55 PM

I get the sense that she is a good candidate that the Republicans should be able to handle. She will be a test to their willingness to not be total tools as well.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 12, 2014 11:34:06 AM

There is no discrimination in sentencing or in enforcing the law.

There is massive discrimination in allowing a several fold increase in black crime victimization, including murder. Basically, blacksa re being badly protected or getting no justice whatsoever. It is in part their own fault. They riot against police brutality when a black criinal is inconvenienced. Their litigators deter the police from enforcing the law.

No mention of black victims and their horrifying discrimination by this pro-criminal, biased lawyer.

"...our support for the retroactive reduction of penalties for non-violent drug offenders..."

Please, stop saying that oxymoronic phrase, until you have tried to sell drugs in the territory of a drug dealer. I am sure this non-violent drug dealer will try to work things out in a neighborly manner.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 13, 2014 2:32:55 PM

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