Cory Booker Grills Attorney General Nominee William Barr On Racism In The Criminal Justice System

Cory Booker came prepared to press attorney general nominee William Barr on his views on mass incarceration and racism in the criminal justice system.
Breanna Edwards Jan, 16, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had time on Tuesday afternoon during the confirmation hearing of President Donald Trump’s Attorney General nominee William Barr.

Booker, who is widely seen as a potential 2020 Presidential candidate, came prepared with documents, statistics, and other evidence to take Barr to task for his thoughts on mass incarceration and the racial disparity that exists in the criminal justice system.

Barr is well known for his problematic views on mass incarceration, having literally, as Booker put it “wrote the book on mass incarceration,” referring of course to the 1992 DOJ report called “The Case for More Incarceration,” which Barr signed off on as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Booker pinned Barr directly with questions asking him if he still believed that “there’s no statistical evidence of racism in the criminal justice system.”

Barr attempted to dance around the straightforward question, noting, “I think that’s taken out of a broader quote, which is the whole criminal justice system involves both federal but also state and local justice systems. I said there’s no doubt there are places where there’s racism still in the system. But I said overall, I thought, that as a system, it’s working.”

But Booker isn’t one to be danced around, pressing further, pulling out stats from the Brookings study that showed that “Blacks are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for selling drugs despite the fact that whites are actually more likely to sell drugs in the United States of America.”

“Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for possession of drugs when there is no difference racially in America for the usage and possession of drugs in the United States,” Booker added.

Again, Barr attempted to brush those practices off, at least during his time in office, saying that “1992 was a different time.”

“The crime rate had quintupled over the proceeding 30 years and peaked in 1992. And it’s been coming down since 1990,” he argued.

But Booker wasn’t born yesterday, and literally pointed out to Barr that as a Black man growing up in the 90s, he knew better.

“I was a young Black guy in 1990s. I was a 20-something-year-old and experienced a dramatically different justice system in the treatment I received,” Booker countered.

Booker pressed Barr demanding to know if he would commit to commissioning a study examining the racial disparities and impacts within the criminal justice system, which Barr agreed to.