Department of Justice Must Advance Racial Equity

Contact: Rafael Medina, [email protected], 202.869.0390

WASHINGTON — The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union, Drug Policy Alliance, Federal Defenders, NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and the Sentencing Project today urged the Department of Justice to prioritize policies and agency changes that would end harms caused by the federal criminal-legal system given the Biden administration’s stated commitment to advancing racial justice.

“Individuals marched across the country last year in response to the murder of George Floyd and the vast injustices facing Black Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. Immediate bold action on some of the most pressing issues within the criminal-legal system is critical,” the groups wrote to the department. “Key policy decisions and/or inaction by the administration raise concerns for us about the progress the Department of Justice is making on its racial justice priorities.”

The groups recommend policies and agency changes that the Department of Justice can swiftly take, including improved data collection on law enforcement by fully implementing the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act, which requires law enforcement to report to the Department of Justice the number of people who die in law enforcement custody; stopping pursuit of the death penalty in federal cases beyond the moratorium announced earlier this year; expanding eligibility and expediting the process of releasing older people and those with preexisting health conditions from prison to home confinement under the CARES Act; changing charging policies to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing; and fully implementing the First Step Act.

“President Biden has spoken forcefully about racial injustice and the inequities that plague our criminal-legal system, and the administration should be commended for some of the steps it has taken, such as the January executive order on racial equity,” the groups continue. “Unfortunately, when it comes to the criminal-legal system, too often the action has failed to match the rhetoric. The examples above reflect instead in some instances a doubling down on the failed policies of the past administration instead of charting a bold new course.”

In the letter, the organizations urge the Biden-Harris administration and the Department of Justice to recommit to the pursuit of justice and equity by focusing on policies that will help eradicate the systemic racism woven into the American criminal-legal system.

The full letter can be found here.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 230 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit