Vera Institute of Justice on Biden Administration’s Restoration of Access to Justice Office and Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable

Last Friday, the Biden administration announced the restoration of both the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable and a standalone Office for Access to Justice within the U.S. Department of Justice. The announcement is part of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s phased strategic plan and Roundtable 2021 report to restore and expand access to justice throughout the federal government and to address the most urgent legal needs of communities across the United States.

Vera Institute of Justice President Nicholas Turner issued the following statement:

“The restoration of these offices is critical to undo the racial and economic disparities built into our criminal and immigration legal systems—disparities that continue to deny people the means to stay with their families or in their communities and to pay the fines, fees, and bail necessary to fight their cases freely. As a result, millions languish in jail or immigration detention despite having never been convicted of a crime or standing trial. The COVID-19 pandemic only exposed and exacerbated this reality further, especially in immigration detention. The steps announced today—including a commitment to use federal funding—have the potential to boost existing investments in pretrial release and deportation defense programs. Furthermore, investments in data collection and more equity-informed policies will ensure that public safety doesn’t come at the cost of human dignity. We look forward to working with the Department of Justice to prioritize these investments, particularly in a federal defender service for immigrants, and to leverage the Access to Justice Office to push for pretrial justice, decarceration, and a more holistic approach to public safety.

Justice can never wait. We call on the administration to move quickly to reestablish these offices and usher in a more equitable legal system for all.”

About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and activists working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit