Justice and Civil Rights

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have been actively working to make our communities safer and promote justice both in Illinois and across the nation. Addressing these issues takes a comprehensive approach. We need to provide better options for young people who are at risk of becoming involved in gangs or other criminal activities. We need to ensure that our criminal justice laws are not just firm, but fair. And we need to protect the civil and human rights of all Americans.

The level of gun violence in Illinois and nationwide is unacceptably high. Senator Durbin has pushed for commonsense gun safety reforms that respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners but keep guns out of the hands of those with criminal records and those with serious mental illness. Closing loopholes in our background check system, tracing all recovered crime guns and ammunition, and cracking down on gun trafficking and straw purchasing will help make our neighborhoods safer.  At the same time, addressing the root economic causes of violent crime by investing in our neighborhoods and providing more economic opportunities, particularly for our youth, is vital to reducing gun violence. 

Senator Durbin has worked to ensure that law enforcement has the necessary resources to keep communities safe and curb violent crime. At the same time, he has and will continue to work to make critical reforms to our criminal justice system.

Since 1980, the federal prison population has grown by more than700 percent, and federal prison spending has climbed nearly 600 percent. Today, the United States holds more prisoners, by far, than any other country in the world. Overcrowded federal prisons consume one quarter of the Justice Department’s discretionary budget, which undermines other important priorities, such as preventing crime and treating drug addiction. Senator Durbin has worked on a bipartisan basis to pursue common-sense criminal justice reforms. Senator Durbin was one of the lead authors of the First Step Act, which was enacted into law in 2018 after years of bipartisan efforts. The First Step Act is the most significant change to our criminal justice system in decades. The law uses evidence-based recidivism reduction programs to help inmates successfully return to society after serving their sentence; it also reduces some sentences for certain low-level, nonviolent offenders while preserving important law enforcement tools to tackle criminal enterprises. 

Senator Durbin is deeply committed to addressing ongoing civil and human rights concerns in the United States. As the former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, Senator Durbin held a number of hearings that gave a platform to voices that are not often heard in the halls of Congress—including the first-ever congressional hearings on the use of solitary confinement, Muslim civil rights, the school-to-prison pipeline, and so-called “stand your ground” laws.

Senator Durbin will continue working to combat policies that permit the government to profile people based on their race, national origin, or religion; unfair racial disparities in the criminal justice system; onerous state voting laws that make it more difficult for low-income and minority citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote; discrimination against the LGBTQ community; and the continuing threat of hate crimes and domestic extremism.