October 27, 2021

Durbin Questions Attorney General Garland During Hearing on Oversight of the Department of Justice

Durbin asks Garland to update Committee on gun violence, criminal justice reform, and threats of violence against school officials

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Department of Justice.” Durbin asked Garland what the Department is doing to respond to gun violence and gun trafficking operations in Chicago.

“Hardly a day goes by in the City of Chicago where somebody isn’t killed by a firearm. The cases are heartbreaking…The gun used to murder [Officer Ella French] was obtained from Indiana through a straw purchase…What are we going to do about this? What is going to be done at the federal level to show that we’re taking this seriously?” Durbin asked.

Garland said he is concerned about the rise in violent crime across the country and that the Department is doing everything it can to address it. Garland said the Department continues to operate Strike Forces that coordinate with state and local law enforcement authorities on violent crime and gun trafficking. He noted that Chicago is one of the cities in which a DOJ Strike Force is working to investigate and combat gun trafficking.

Durbin then asked Garland for his views on the Bureau of Prisons’ home confinement program, which was expanded under the bipartisan CARES Act.

“Since March of last year, more than 33,000 inmates have been released to home confinement, including those released under the CARES Act expanded authority. Less than one percent of those inmates have been returned to BOP facilities for any rules violation. Do you agree that recalling the thousands of individuals who have successfully transitioned back into society would be contrary to the purpose of home confinement, which is to allow an individual to have, ‘a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for reentry’”? Durbin asked.

Garland said that he believes the home confinement program has been successful in relieving pressure on prisons during the pandemic, and gave people a chance to adjust into their communities. Garland said there have been very few violations of the home confinement program and he is strongly in favor of continuing it.

Durbin replied, “I’m hoping we can get a definitive reversal of the OLC opinion that was dropped on the desk as President Trump left office. And make it very clear what will happen if and when, and I pray that’s very soon, the COVID-19 emergency is lifted.”

Durbin then highlighted multiple instances of violence against school board officials for local mask or vaccine mandates, and asked Garland to explain the Department’s decision to monitor and prevent such acts violence in American communities.

“I really invite the members of this Committee…to type ‘school board violence’ into your computers and take a look at what’s happening. These are not routine people that are incensed or angry. These are people acting out their feelings in a violent manner over and over again,” Durbin said.

Garland said the Department of Justice’s main concern is the threat of violence, especially against school board members, school personnel, staff, and teachers. Garland said there has been a “rising tide” of violence against judges, prosecutors, secretaries of state, election administrators, doctors, reporters, and more. He said responding to such threats is at the core of the Department’s responsibility.

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here for TV Stations.

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