Media Alert: Vera Calls on AG Garland to Address Racial Disparities in the Justice System

On Monday, the Vera Institute of Justice, For The People, Public Rights Project, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for a financial investment and commitment to support progressive prosecutors in their work to address the racial disparities inherent in the United States criminal legal system. A copy of the letter can be found here.

Under the Trump administration, the Department of Justice (DOJ) maintained a harmful status quo and perpetuated the harm Black communities experience due to the system's inequities. With a new administration, AG Garland and the DOJ have an opportunity to support the efforts of progressive prosecutors who are working to uphold both public safety and fairness. Specifically, these organizations are calling for:

  • The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to provide $50 million in funding and support to prosecutors to collect data that reveals the extent of racial disparities in the system.

  • OJP to offer an additional $50 million to jurisdictions to pilot and scale diversion and community-based programs, particularly in communities most harmed by the system.

  • The DOJ to implement concrete policies that center racial equity in the decisions and actions of its prosecutors.

  • The DOJ to engage all U.S. Attorneys and ensure that their practices work collectively to address racial inequities in the system.

  • The DOJ to actively amplify and encourage efforts to address systemic harm and support local prosecutors as they work to transform the criminal legal system.

The letter was sent one day after Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s 60 Minutes interview, during which she detailed the relentless pushback she received from the local police union, thwarting her efforts to implement policies to end St. Louis’s reliance on mass incarceration.

About the Vera Institute of Justice:

The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice. Vera collaborates with the communities most impacted by these systems and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement change. Across projects, Vera is committed to explicitly and effectively reducing the burdens of the justice system on people of color and frames all work with an understanding of our country’s history of racial oppression. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, providing legal services for immigrants, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities. Vera has offices in Brooklyn, NY; Washington, DC; New Orleans; and Los Angeles.