KRWG

Carrie Johnson

Thousands of people are leaving federal prison this month thanks to a law called the First Step Act, which allowed them to win early release by participating in programs aimed at easing their return to society.

But thousands of others may still remain behind bars because of fundamental flaws in the Justice Department's method for deciding who can take the early-release track. The biggest flaw: persistent racial disparities that put Black and brown people at a disadvantage.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday said the federal government wants to create a "comprehensive" response to the scourge of gun crime that involves working more with cities and states.

"At the Justice Department, we stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the fight against violent crime and we will use every tool at our disposal to protect our communities," Garland said in remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington on Friday.

The Justice Department unsealed seditious conspiracy charges against the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers group and 10 other people on Thursday, alleging they plotted to disrupt the electoral process at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and endangered former Vice President Mike Pence.

Federal authorities arrested Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes in Texas on Thursday morning and also took Edward Vallejo into custody in Arizona. The other nine people had already been accused of some crimes related to the siege on the Capitol last year.

Updated January 5, 2022 at 3:39 PM ET

Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged the Justice Department would hold to account people who broke the law in connection with the siege on the U.S. Capitol last Jan. 6, no matter their level or "whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on democracy."

President Biden has gotten a group of 40 federal judges confirmed in the Senate this year, the most for a new president since the Reagan era — and he's prioritizing diversity among his nominees for these life-tenured posts.

Updated December 22, 2021 at 7:24 PM ET

Matthew Greene, a self-proclaimed member of the far-right group known as the Proud Boys, has pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., to two criminal charges: conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, related to the Capitol siege on Jan. 6, 2021.

Updated December 21, 2021 at 4:44 PM ET

The Justice Department has reversed course in a legal analysis, which could allow thousands of people released from prison at the start of the pandemic to remain free once the coronavirus emergency ends.

People working to overhaul the criminal justice system say they're frustrated with the Biden administration after they've waited nearly a year for the White House to take major steps on clemency and sentencing reform.

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Updated November 12, 2021 at 5:46 PM ET

Steve Bannon has been charged with contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the legislative committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.

Bannon, who was a political adviser to then-President Donald Trump, is charged with one count for failing to appear for a deposition and another for refusing to hand over documents.

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The U.S. government is cracking down on international ransomware schemes. Today, Attorney General Merrick Garland unsealed criminal charges against two foreign-born hackers.

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Updated October 22, 2021 at 5:24 PM ET

A coalition of nearly 100 civil rights and criminal justice reform groups is protesting a Biden administration proposal that would potentially stiffen prison sentences for certain synthetic opioids, warning that it will exacerbate racial disparities already in the system.

Updated October 21, 2021 at 2:03 PM ET

Attorney General Merrick Garland deflected questions about whether the Justice Department is investigating legal violations by former President Donald Trump and about the reach of the ongoing probe into the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6 at his first congressional oversight hearing since he arrived to run the Justice Department seven months ago.

Updated October 14, 2021 at 6:40 PM ET

The Justice Department has agreed to restore full law enforcement benefits and provide some attorney fees for former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by the Trump administration only hours before his retirement three years ago.

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The Justice Department is directing prosecutors to coordinate with state and local authorities in cases where federal charges won't be brought, part of a broad new push to support crime victims.

A federal judge is weighing arguments on the Justice Department's emergency request to block Texas' controversial new abortion law.

Department attorneys and lawyers for the state of Texas made their cases on Friday at a virtual hearing before Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. At stake is the ability of women in the country's second-largest state to get an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, a time before which many people don't realize they're pregnant.

Updated September 30, 2021 at 5:55 PM ET

The Justice Department is combating a surge in counterfeit pills that can cause deadly drug overdoses, an effort that in the past two months has led to the arrest of more than 800 people, 60 search warrants and 1.8 million recovered counterfeit pills laced with enough fentanyl to kill 700,000 Americans.

"We are here to let the American people know that one pill can kill," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at a news conference Thursday in Washington, D.C.

A federal judge has approved the unconditional release next year of John Hinckley Jr., who wounded President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a Washington, D.C., hotel in a failed assassination attempt in 1981.

Hinckley is now 66 years old and has been living outside a mental health facility for the past several years, a result of a gradual lightening of supervision. His lawyer said the "momentous event" of Hinckley's full release in June is both appropriate and required by the law.

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Updated September 15, 2021 at 4:49 PM ET

People locked up in the Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas have been reaching out for help nearly every day.

The for-profit facility, which houses federal prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing, has been on 24-hour lockdown since a person died there last month. The death followed months of violence targeting both detainees and corrections officers inside the center just 30 miles from Kansas City.

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There's pressure on the Justice Department to close a violence-prone detention center in Kansas. The for-profit facility has been on 24-hour lockdown after a person died last month. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

Updated September 9, 2021 at 6:25 PM ET

The Department of Justice has sued the state of Texas over a new law that bans abortions after about six weeks, before most people realize they are pregnant, all but halting the procedure in the country's second-largest state.

The lawsuit says the state enacted the law "in open defiance of the Constitution."

The Justice Department calls the Voting Rights Act of 1965 "the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever adopted by the United States Congress."

The law put an end to literacy tests, which prevented many people from registering to vote, in a half-dozen states, granted the attorney general the power to send observers to witness elections and gave the federal government the authority to preapprove voting and election changes in places with a history of discrimination.

COVID-19 has exacted a terrible toll inside America's prisons, spreading there at six times the rate as among the general population.

The coronavirus pandemic motivated tens of thousands of incarcerated people to request early release on the grounds that their old age and health troubles made them especially vulnerable.

But the Federal Bureau of Prisons told lawmakers that of the nearly 31,000 prisoners to request compassionate release, the BOP approved just 36.

The Justice Department is launching an investigation of the Phoenix Police Department over allegations of excessive use of force and homeless abuse.

"When we conduct pattern or practice investigations to determine whether the Constitution or federal law has been violated, our aim is to promote transparency and accountability," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the investigation Thursday afternoon. "This increases public trust, which in turn increases public safety. We know that law enforcement shares these goals."

The Justice Department has paved the way for a House panel to get former President Donald Trump's tax returns in what could be the beginning of the end of years of delay and court battles.

In a new legal opinion released Friday, the department concluded that the House Ways and Means Committee has invoked "sufficient" legislative reasons for access to the sensitive materials, including what the panel said were "serious concerns" about how the Internal Revenue Service is operating an audit program for presidents.

The Justice Department is putting states on notice about their obligations under federal law as GOP-led efforts to conduct reviews of the 2020 election intensify.

Federal authorities on Wednesday issued a pair of new guidance documents to states and voters to remind them of their responsibilities — and their rights.

The moves are part of the Biden administration's push to demonstrate it is on guard amid new voting restrictions proposed and enacted by Republican-led states across the nation — and as Democratic-led federal voting legislation has stalled in Congress.

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