Civil rights activists and groups are reacting with alarm and opposition to President Donald J. Trump’s nomination of William Barr to become the next Attorney General.
Barr was Attorney General during the George W. Walker Bush administration in the early 1990s and launched policies at the DOJ which increased the incarceration of Black people due to the nation’s war on drugs, notably crack cocaine distribution.
Activists say Barr would oppose recent bipartisan efforts to reform the nation’s criminal justice system, to reduce the use of long mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses, and investigations of police shootings of unarmed Black people and voting rights violations.
Further Barr’s criticism of Robert Mueller and his support of expansive presidential privilege and power, activists fear, would interfere with the Special Prosecutor’s work investing the Trump White House.
“We do not take positions on nominees,” said Kara Gotsch, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Sentencing Project in Washington D.C. “But we are familiar with Barr’s policies and role at the Justice Department.”
“With that track record, we believe we would return to his philosophy of mass incarceration,” said Gotsch. “That kind of policy is a reverse of the bipartisan reform efforts of the judicial system to get away from mass incarceration,”
Trump hinted at backing away from judicial reforms, as the leaders of the GOP controlled Senate has refused to bring it to the floor for consideration.
The sentencing project said over-incarceration was not the sole reason for the reduction in crime over the last decade and 40,000 less people in federal prisons.
Gotsch said better policing, reduction in drug use and more states imposing less punitive sentencing are factors, as well.
Gotsch said Barr may continue the work of the former A.G. Jeff Sessions who was imposing more stringent policies on non-violent drugs offenses and stepping away from confronting local police departments on the shooting of unarmed Black people.
Roy Perry-Bey of the United Front For Justice (UFJ) in Virginia said Barr would be a threat to judicial reforms and restore over-incarceration.
By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide