Women’s History Month 2012: Janet Reno

11 Mar

Today we would like to honor and pay tribute to Janet Reno.  On March 11, 1993, Reno was confirmed as the first woman U.S. Attorney General by President Bill Clinton. The standoff with David Koresh and his followers (known as the Branch Davidians) in Texas and the conviction of  Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh were two significant events that marked Reno’s career as Attorney General.  Reno took full responsibility for bizarre turn of events in Waco with the Branch Davidians.

Reno became one of the most respected members of the Clinton administration in its first term, known for launching innovative programs designed to steer non-violent drug offenders away from jail and espousing the rights of criminal defendants.  How sad that we do the exact opposite today, trying to  steer all purported criminals to jail. In effect, we build a criminal system, rather than a justice system.  Not a big surprise that Reno suffered great misogynistic attacks from the Republican party.

Although she left public life after serving her tenure as Attorney General, Reno reappeared to testify before the federal 9/11 commission in 2004 and voice her opposition to some of the nation’s antiterrorism policies through a legal brief in 2006.  Curious that we have horrific racial profiling against our Muslim brothers and sisters, yet some of the worst terrorist attacks in our country have been perpetrated by white heterosexual men.

Reno continues to fight for issues around social justice and tries to keep people OUT of prisons: she serves on the board of directors for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization which assists prisoners who could be exonerated through DNA testing.

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