- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2021

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday it is launching a six-figure advertising spree demanding that President Biden honor his campaign promise to reduce the number of people incarcerated across the country.

Both print and digital spots will be part of the ACLU’s campaign.

The ACLU says Mr. Biden hasn’t stuck to his pledge to grant clemency to thousands of people incarcerated for minor drug offenses, are elderly or imprisoned under a statute that has since changed.

Those individuals could be released through an executive order, the ACLU said.

“The American public, voters, and most importantly, incarcerated people and their families were encouraged by President Biden’s commitment to reduce our country’s prison population significantly. Now that he is in office, the president has the opportunity to act on this commitment and correct the harms created by decades of racist policies that have led to the unjust and disproportionate incarceration of Black and Brown people by using his executive power to grant clemency to thousands of people,” said Cynthia Roseberry, deputy director of the ACLU’s Justice Division.

The National Police Association slammed both Mr. Biden and the ACLU, saying the rush to release prisoners doesn’t make Americans any safer. 

“If the American justice system is indeed fraught with racial inequity, the widespread use of an executive order releasing criminals back onto the streets of America won’t get to the root of a potential problem,” said Betsy Brantner Smith, a spokesperson for the NPA. 

“No cash bail” policies have already shown that releasing criminals back into the population can have a devastating effect on innocent citizens who are already facing police shortages and progressive policies that make addressing criminality incredibly difficult,” she continued.  “I hope that President Biden will keep crime victims at the forefront of his decision-making process.” 

Mr. Biden made criminal justice reform a key platform of his campaign, pledging to reduce racial disparities in the nation’s prison population. He repeatedly promised to reduce the number of prisoners, but never offered specifics on who he would release or how that would happen.

A campaign website for Mr. Biden doesn’t identify the percentage by which he intends to reduce the prison population.

The ACLU says as many as 25,000 people could be released from prison by Mr. Biden.

More than 2 million people are incarcerated across the United States, which outpaces any other country in the world.

Mr. Biden last week signed a series of executive orders last week, including ordering the Justice Department to phase out the use of private prisons. The effort was part of an effort to address racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

An ACLU poll last year found widespread support for executive officials to use their clemency authority to release more prisoners. 

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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