Justice in the United States: Prison system focus

This is an emotional picture about the immigration policies of the united states
Image: © Brad Greeff | iStock

Some of the U.S. Department of Justice’s work, including a look at the federal prison system, is assessed here by Open Access Government

The United States (U.S.) Department of Justice, in a nutshell, seeks “to uphold the rule of law”, “keep” their “country safe” and “protect civil rights,” we hear. The U.S. Attorney General at the Justice Department leads over 115,000 employees in no less than 40 separate organizations and prison systems. While the Department has its Headquarters in Washington, D.C., field offices in all territories and states throughout the U.S. and over 50 countries globally are kept going. (1)

Priorities for justice in the U.S.

In the Department of Justice Strategic Plan FYs 2022-2026 (2), there is a message from the Attorney General of the U.S., Merrick B. Garland, that concisely summarizes the broad tasks of the Department of Justice: “Every day, we work to uphold the rule of law; to keep our country safe from all threats, foreign and domestic; and to protect civil rights,” he said. (3)

In her message, Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Lisa O. Monaco highlights the crucial role people play in the mission of the Department of Justice. This message follows nicely from the abovementioned point about the more than 115,000 individuals who work in the Department. We hear how the people there protect national security, for example, and work in so many other areas to ensure there is “equal justice for all and that justice is accessible to all”, as Lisa O. Monaco explains more below.

“They protect our national security, both physical and digital. They keep our markets free and our elections fair. They protect the American people from a wide range of threats and dangers, from organized crime to contaminated food; from dirty air to illegal drugs; from hate crimes to financial fraud. They stand up for the oppressed, seek justice for victims, and provide a path for those who are convicted to repay their debt to society.

They champion cutting-edge research to help improve justice systems everywhere, and they support state, local, Tribal, and territorial partners as they implement best practices. (4)

The U.S. federal prison system

Administering the U.S. federal prison system is among “the Department’s most solemn responsibilities,” indeed, the Department of Justice Strategic Plan FYs 2022-2026 explains. The Plan includes “Strategic Goal 5: Administer Just Court and Correctional Systems”, and it is here we read that “prison serves as a necessary deterrent to and consequence of criminal behavior” and gives the “opportunity to prevent recidivism through rehabilitation and reentry programs that successfully reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals into communities”.

We also hear that immigration laws must be enforced, as the rule of law establishes, but justice should be enforced compassionately and humanely. In the two realms discussed above, the Department yearns to show its hallmark qualities of “professionalism, integrity, and respect,” we learn. (5)

Part of “Strategic Goal 5” is “Objective 5.2: Maintain a Safe and Humane Prison System”. Pretrial detention systems and federal prisons are crucial to the Department’s mission. Still, it is just as vital that “prisons, detention centers, and community-based facilities are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure,” we discover. “Objective 5.2” also underlines the importance of sufficient staffing and the “changing health and safety needs of incarcerated individuals”. When people have completed their prison term, and their debt to society is paid off, the Department seeks to tackle “barriers to reentry and proactively provide the tools and resources these individuals need to succeed and thrive”. (6)

U.S. justice in action

We have an excellent overview of some of the U.S. Department of Justice’s priorities, including those for federal prisons. Still, it will be helpful to look at recent examples of U.S. justice in action. There are so many, so let us look at two of them as part of our analysis of the Department’s mission “to uphold the rule of law”, keep America “safe” and “protect civil rights” concludes. (1)

First, in March this year, tax return preparers in Texas conspired to file false tax returns and, as such, were sentenced to prison. “The sentencing of these criminals for their tax crimes during the ongoing tax season is a timely reminder justice will always prevail,” Acting Special Agent in Charge Rodrick J. Benton of IRS-CI’s Houston Field Office commented. “These tax preparers submitted false returns claiming fraudulent refunds to the IRS, all while betting they would not get caught. But the one thing they all forgot; no one is better at following the money than IRS-CI Special Agents.” (7)

Second, in February, a pharmacist from New York pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess and distribute with intent oxycodone plus filing false personal and business income tax returns. “At the same time Daniel Russo was illegally peddling oxycodone out of his pharmacy, he was pocketing – and not paying taxes on – income from those sales and others in his business,” Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division said.

“Everyone is required to pay their fair share of taxes, whether they make their money legitimately or through criminal activity.” (8)


  1. https://www.justice.gov/about
  2. https://www.justice.gov/doj/doj-strategic-plan/doj-strategic-plan-2022-2026
  3. https://www.justice.gov/doj/doj-strategic-plan/message-attorney-general
  4. https://www.justice.gov/doj/doj-strategic-plan/message-deputy-attorney-general
  5. https://www.justice.gov/doj/doj-strategic-plan/strategic-goal-5
  6. https://www.justice.gov/doj/doj-strategic-plan/objective-52-maintain-safe-and-humane-prison-system
  7. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/waco-return-preparers-sentenced-prison-tax-scheme
  8. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/new-york-pharmacist-pleads-guilty-narcotics-and-tax-offenses


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