Obama administration officials yesterday brought together academics, state officials and civil rights advocates who have challenged court practices that send the poor into an endless cycle of debt and incarceration, reports the Huffington Post. Justice Department officials hoped to find out how the federal government could be most effective in helping bring local court systems in line with constitutional standards, given how prevalent constitutional violations are in state and local courts. Civil rights lawyer Alec Karakatsanis of Equal Justice Under Law says DOJ needs to get more aggressive in going after public officials, law enforcement officers and judges who have set up systems that lock people up for minor offensives to generate revenue.
The Office of Civil Rights in the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs is reviewing several complaints against jurisdictions that have received federal grants to determine whether their pre-trial and bail policies violate federal law. An event on the subject at the White House today will feature Attorney General Loretta Lynch, The Wire creator David Simon, and conservative political advocate Grover Norquist.