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The President's Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform

The newest edition of the Harvard Law Review includes an article from President Barack Obama on his administration’s efforts to reform the criminal justice system. 

In the section discussing state and local reforms, he focuses specifically on the criminalization of poverty:

Another sustained focus of my Administration has been on addressing excessive fines and fees, inadequate legal representation, the imposition of excessive bail, and other egregious abuses in too many state and local justice systems that Attorney General Lynch has argued "amount to nothing less than the criminalization of poverty." These practices destroy trust, deprive our fellow Americans of their fundamental rights, and have too often led to a two-tiered system in which the poor are not accorded the equal protection under the laws to which they are entitled under the U.S. Constitution. We should all be able to agree that the justice system should never be used as a source of revenue. Even in a time of budget shortages, there is simply no excuse for the proliferation of "user fees" that charge defendants — innocent or guilty — for everything from paperwork to legal representation, consigning those who cannot afford to pay to a cycle of debt, incarceration, and prolonged poverty. I agree with Attorney General Lynch that this is "an unconscionable state of affairs in a nation that outlawed debtors’ prisons in 1833."

Read the entire article here.



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