More than 80 nationally recognized criminal justice and civil rights advocacy organizations have joined in the call to President Joe Biden on Tuesday urging him to abolish the federal death penalty and commute the sentences of 49 death row inmates to life in prison.
While the Justice Department has not scheduled any federal executions since the last of 13 men and a woman were put to death five days before Inauguration Day, the coalition is urging Biden to act on his campaign “promise” that is included in his criminal justice reform plans, according to the letter.
The coalition’s cosigners include the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Innocence Project and Prison Policy Initiative.
The call for ending the federal death penalty has been ongoing prior to Biden’s election win in November. The day former Attorney General William Barr announced restarting federal executions in July 2019, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced a bill to stop them.
A portion of Biden’s criminal justice reform plan is to abolish the federal death penalty and to give initiatives to states not to seek them – an action that does not require congressional approval, according to the letter.
The White House did not comment on the coalition’s letter or whether he is awaiting the confirmation of his nominee for attorney general. However, press secretary Jen Psaki said on January 25 that Biden is “opposed to the death penalty.”
The difference with this coalition’s call to action is they are also requesting for Biden to reinstate “the federal moratorium on the use of the death penalty,” according to the letter, that was put in place nearly 18 years ago and limited the use of executions until Barr’s lift.