NAACP president: William Barr ‘literally wrote a book on the case for more incarceration’

Greg Nash

NAACP President Derrick Johnson on Wednesday denounced President Trump’s attorney general nominee over his tenure leading the Justice Department under President George H.W. Bush, suggesting William Barr would not support criminal justice reform.

“Mr. Barr’s record demonstrates a lack of strong commitment to protecting the civil and human rights of all Americans. The communities served and represented by the NAACP will have a difficult time placing their trust in the Justice Department and, by extension, the American criminal justice system overall,” he testified during the second day of Barr’s confirmation hearings. 

{mosads}“He literally wrote a book on the case for more incarceration,” Johnson added, referencing a 1992 Justice Department memorandum, “The Case for More Incarceration.”

Barr’s record in the early 1990s has sparked concerns among groups such as the NAACP. 

As deputy attorney general and attorney general, Barr helped oversee the implementation of a 1990 crime law that critics say escalated the war on drugs and had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. He’s also supported harsher sentencing laws, co-chaired a commission for Virginia’s governor in 1994 that suggested abolishing parole and downplayed racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

“Mr. Barr’s record on criminal justice is abysmal. As attorney general, he championed mass incarceration and deprived countless persons of color of their liberty and dramatically limited their future potential. His Justice Department tenure was marked by extraordinarily aggressive policies that harmed people of color,” Johnson said.

“William Barr did not and does not recognize the racially discriminatory impact of our criminal justice system policies. In 1992 he said, ‘I think our system is fair and does not treat people differently.’ And just yesterday he told Sen. [Cory] Booker [D-N.J.], ‘overall, the system treats black and whites fairly.’

“This statement is singly disqualifying.” 

“The NAACP opposes Mr. Barr’s nomination, and I urge every member of this committee to vote against his confirmation,” he added.

Barr on Tuesday sought to allay such concerns, saying he would implement a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill signed into law last year that, among other things, reduces mandatory minimum sentences in certain instances and expands on “good time credits” for well-behaved prisoners.

However, he defended his positions form the 1990s, saying they appropriately addressed the issues of the time. 

“I don’t think comparing the policies that were in effect in 1992 to the situation now is really fair,” Barr said. “I think the time was right to take stock and make changes to our penal system based on our current experience.”

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