Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday called for a recalibration of the nation’s justice system that for many people is “not a guarantee of equality, but an obstacle to opportunity,” reports the Washington Post. She urged leaders in the legal profession to overhaul court fees, fines and a money bail system that can lead to a cycle of debt, incarceration and poverty for those who cannot afford to pay. “When we begin to treat defendants as cash registers, rather than citizens, we do more damage to the fabric of our institutions,” Lynch told a crowd of judges, lawyers and law clerks gathered for an annual lecture at the U.S. District Court in Washington. “We stain the sanctity of our laws. And we only tighten the shackles of those struggling to break the chains of poverty.”
Lynch, the first African American woman to lead the Justice Department, has used her post to try to improve strained relations between residents and police after a number of high-profile police shootings of unarmed African Americans throughout the country. The Obama administration Justice Department has also been aggressive in opening civil rights investigations into police departments and has negotiated consent decrees that require local leaders to implement significant and sometimes costly reforms. Lynch’s remarks came a week after the election of Donald Trump, and she acknowledged Tuesday that she is a short-timer. She did not mention Trump by name but said criminal justice reforms must continue with the next administration.