By Sarah N. Lynch and Trevor Hunnicutt, Reuters
President Joe Biden is poised to issue executive actions as soon as Tuesday scaling back the use of private prisons and placing new limits on the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement, according to a person familiar with the matter and a planning document.
The executive actions are part of a broader push by the new administration to roll back controversial policies by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, promote criminal justice reform and address racial inequity across the United States.
Representatives of the White House and the Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.
Some of the Biden administration’s actions will reinstate policies at the Justice Department that were in effect during the administration of former President Barack Obama, according to the planning document circulated to congressional Democrats by the White House.
Following the fatal police shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, Obama curtailed the federal government’s military equipment transfer program to local law enforcement amid a public outcry over its use.
The Obama-era policy placed limits on the types of equipment police departments could receive, and required them to justify the need for items like helicopters, riot helmets and “flash-bang” grenades.
The move to reduce the use of private prisons is also an Obama-era policy that was championed by then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
The United States was rocked by street protests in 2020 over the killings of Black men and women by police, including George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Floyd’s death has helped spark renewed calls for reforms to address systemic racism, both in how Black communities are policed and incarcerated.
Other potential executive actions in the works include reforms targeting prosecutorial decisions and sentencing, as well as policies involving voting and other civil rights laws.
The document seen by Reuters did not have details on those, saying they were “TBD” (to be determined).
However, Biden has previously pledged to scale back the use of mandatory minimum sentences – a policy that was also imposed by the Obama administration, but later undone after Trump took office.
Activists have also pushed for ending the use of the death penalty for federal crimes.