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Article Title

Keynote Remarks

Abstract

In communities across America today, from Ferguson, Missouri, to Flint, Michigan, too many people—especially young people and people of color—live trapped by the weight of poverty and injustice. They suffer the disparate impact of policies driven by, at best, benign neglect, and at worst, deliberate indifference. And they see how discrimination stacks the deck against them. So today, as we discuss the inequality that pervades our criminal justice system—a defining civil rights challenge of the 21st century—we must also acknowledge the broader inequalities we face in other segments of society. Because discrimination in so many areas—from the classroom, to the workforce, to the marketplace—perpetuates the inequality we see in our justice system. And for those already living paycheck-to-paycheck, a single incident—whether an arrest by the police or a fine by the court—can set off a downward spiral. It can lead to a cycle of profound problems that ruin lives and tear apart families. Problems like losing your health care, your job, your children, or your home. As someone who focuses on civil rights work and criminal justice reform, I see these problems every day. But today in America, I also see a country on the cusp of change. Across a wide range of political perspectives, policymakers and advocates have come together to bridge divides and support meaningful criminal justice reform. And I’m proud to say that this administration—and this Department of Justice—has made criminal justice reform a top priority. We believe that our country needs, and deserves, a criminal justice system that more effectively protects our communities, more fairly treats our people, and more prudently spends our resources. And we believe that no matter how deeply rooted and long-standing the injustices that underlie inequality in our criminal justice system—with clear thinking, hard work and collaboration—we can make real progress.

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