DoJ Manifesto: Lynch Talks the Government's Role in Criminal Justice Reform

"Our overall goal is the protection of the American people."

At the beginning of October, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch sat down with NBC's Chuck Todd at the Washington Ideas Forum hosted by liberal outlet The Atlantic.

It was a moment that went mostly unnoticed; the video, so far, garnering just over 800 views. But to miss the contents of the talk would be detrimental in finding out how Lynch plans on leading the Department of Justice, especially as it relates to criminal justice reform.

As TruthRevolt reported, the DoJ is releasing 6,000 federal prisoners by October's end. And that is part of the larger plan, according to the discussion between Todd and Lynch.

She indicated that the DoJ is offering grants to cities and organizations that will accept these criminals and help them reintegrate back into society through programs like father and son interactions, education, family management services, or helping them find jobs.

"We're very involved at the Department of Justice, obviously, in fundamental fairness and individual accountability," Lynch said.

Todd brought up a statistic he praised as extraordinary that showed former inmates that went back to their old neighborhoods relapsed into crime very quickly, but those whose families had moved to another city, their recidivism rates dropped in half. He asked lynch if relocation is a part of this grant program.

Lynch responded:

The goal of the program is not to remove people from their homes or their neighborhoods, although there is some interesting research and data coming out of the Department of Housing and Urban Development… which is, where you live matters. It matters because of your access to services. It matters because of your access to education. It matters because of your access to a certain quality of life. So our goal is not to move people from their neighborhoods, our goal is to strengthen neighborhoods to support people coming back into them.

The conversation turned to the bitter relationship between black communities and the police officers who patrol them. Lynch has been on a multi-city tour talking about this very issue with local law enforcement. 

In Birmingham, Alabama, she describes "role-playing exercises" between young people and police officers as being an effective way to get a conversation going on the difficulties of being on either side of the badge. She said when the roles are reversed, the youth finally see how hard it is for officers to confront indignant suspects. She hopes more police departments around the country will employ this tactic to improve relations.

Then, Todd complained that there is no national record keeping on how many times officers discharge their weapons and why. Lynch didn't indicate that there was a plan to do so nationally, but she did say that the DoJ is "encouraging" every police department to keep records. However, she said the federal government isn't going to reach down and dictate exactly how records are kept. Though statistics are important, Lynch said the real focus should stay on "connecting communities" back to the government so they don't feel "disenfranchised and disaffected" by police officers.

But what about those ever-rising murder rates in D.C., Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Baltimore, Todd asked.

The attorney general glazed over much of this question, only saying they aren't quite sure why these cities continue to boil over:

We're looking to see if we can identify the root causes of it. Crime overall is down. Violent crime overall is down. But we have these persistent pockets where we see, at times, a resurgence in the violent crime rate and the homicide rate.

How are they going to identify the root causes? Why a summit, of course. Lynch is inviting mayors, federal prosecutors, and officers in these communities to do what the Obama administration does best: have a conversation. 

Todd's final topic was marijuana and he asked if the department is considering rescheduling the drug into a lower class of narcotic as a way to help reduce prison sentences. Lynch had no real answer other than saying the DoJ's focus is more on the kingpins of heroin and cocaine. Lynch said states should decide for themselves to legalize marijuana or not, but to have a plan to mitigate any violence associated with its sale. She also said children need protection because they are becoming more attracted to the hallucinogenic because of its forms that look like candy and baked goods. She made it clear that in certain situations, the federal government will intervene when necessary.

"Our overall goal is the protection of the American people," Lynch said.

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