Washington

ACLU calls for Merrick Garland to commit to criminal justice reform


The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday it will push Judge Merrick Garland, who is President Biden’s pick for attorney general, to commit to specific criminal justice reform policies during his confirmation hearing next week.

The civil liberties group said it intends to send Judge Garland a letter demanding “on-the-record commitments” to overhaul policing, address racial disparities in the prison population, and abolish the death penalty and solitary confinement.

The group says he must address the issues during his confirmation hearing, which is scheduled for Feb. 22.

Cynthia Roseberry, deputy director for policy at the ACLU justice division, wrote in the letter that Judge Garland must “make clear” that he will run the Justice Department with “policies to build a more racially justice criminal legal system.”

“Your nomination comes at a moment when America faces an overdue reckoning with racial injustice that can start to be addressed with policies such as adopting a federal use-of-force standard, decriminalizing marijuana, and ending mandatory minimum sentences,” Ms. Roseberry wrote.

The ACLU also pushed Judge Garland to order federal prosecutors not to pursue mandatory minimum sentences when other charges are available. Ms. Roseberry said doing so would be “perhaps the single most impactful action you can take.”

In addition, the ACLU also demanded that, if confirmed, Mr. Garland overhaul policing by adopting “common sense limitations” on police use of force. The group also asked Judge Garland to deprioritize federal marijuana enforcement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a two-day hearing on Judge Garland followed by a vote on March 1.

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