2022 marks an important year for racial diversity in our criminal justice system. President Biden has just nominated the first black woman, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Senate appears poised to add additional members to the United States Sentencing Commission. The Biden Administration has made clear its commitment to diversity in nominating candidates to the federal bench, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Marshal Service. We write to explain the profound importance of extending this commitment to the Administration’s nominations to the Sentencing Commission.
The Commission has significant influence over the federal judiciary. Each day, the Commission’s published recommendations affect the sentencing decisions made by federal judges, decisions that affect people’s basic freedom, mental and physical health, and physical safety. Meaningful racial and ethnic diversity on the Commission is critical to preserve the public’s faith in the Commission’s recommendations. The racial and ethnic makeup of the Commission matters in part because the predominant groups being sentenced by the federal judges who follow the Commission’s recommendations are people of color. Given that people of color have made up the vast majority of those affected by the Commission’s recommendations in recent years, it is particularly important that the Commission meaningfully reflect the diversity of the groups most affected by its guidance. Meaningful diversity will both positively impact the public’s trust in this body and the substantive recommendations it publishes. Americans deserve a Commission that provides recommendations that are both substantively fair and also carry the appearance of fairness. It is thus critical that the makeup of the Commission reflect the populations most affected by its guidance.