Criminal justice advocates are hoping that the U.S. Justice Department, under the leadership of newly confirmed Attorney General Eric Holder, will increase outreach to organizations in the field. “I hope the department will take a leadership role in developing better relations with all aspects of the justice system,” said Virginia Sloan of The Constitution Project at the annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Sloan cited criminal defense lawyers, Congress, and the judiciary among groups she said had been “left out in the cold” by the administration of President George W. Bush.
Another speaker on a panel on the Justice Department in the new administration, Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, said he feared that the addition ot thousands of police officers under the economic stimulus bill pending in Congress, would lead to more arrests and imprisonment for drug defendants. Laurie Robinson, acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, noted that under some versions of the bill, money could be used for police jobs other than patrol officers, such as forensic analysts. Criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University expressed the hope that the Obama administration would restore the balance between traditional law enforcement and anti-terrorism programs, saying “we’ve become obsessed” with homeland security.