White House officials meet virtually with criminal justice reform advocates

Greg Nash

White House officials on Friday held a virtual listening session with criminal justice advocates who were previously incarcerated to receive input on how to advance prison reform through policy.

In a readout of the call released Saturday, the White House said officials solicited policy recommendations from the advocates “to reduce incarceration, end racial disparities, and facilitate successful reentry.”

White House counsel Dana Remus, domestic policy adviser Susan Rice and public engagement director Cedric Richmond led the listening session, which included leaders from 10 advocacy groups such as Forward Justice, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, and JustLeadershipUSA. 

Advocates have been pressing Biden for more action on criminal justice and police reform, in particular to address the racial disparities in prison populations and racism within law enforcement.

DeAnna Hoskins, who heads JustLeadershipUSA, has been pushing the administration to appoint a “reentry czar” to help facilitate the reentry of previously imprisoned people into society, she told The Hill in previous interviews. 

The Biden administration has taken some initial steps to reform the justice system, including ending the Justice Department’s use of private prisons and deciding to open up “pattern or practice” investigations into the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments.

Biden has not yet moved to end the use of the death penalty, despite promising to do so on the campaign trail. And while he has pushed for action on police reform legislation following the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, Biden has kept distance from legislative negotiations on Capitol Hill as Democratic and Republican lawmakers try to find common ground. 

Friday’s meeting was held to commemorate Second Chance Month, a nationwide effort to highlight the challenges faced by people who have been previously convicted. 

“Too many people—disproportionately Black and brown people—are incarcerated. Too many face an uphill struggle to secure a decent job, stable housing, and basic opportunity when they return from prison,” the White House said in the readout. “Those who have been through the system have particular insight into its shortcomings and the reforms that are needed.” 

The White House said that the meeting participants “expressed a desire to stay in communication and collaborate to pursue urgently needed criminal justice reform.”

Tags Cedric Richmond Criminal justice reform Dana Remus Susan Rice

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