The demand by U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Cori Bush, D-Mo., came in a letter sent to Biden that was also signed by 35 other Democrats, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
It was a reaction to the Trump administration’s revival of federal executions after a nearly two-decade hiatus that resulted in 13 executions carried out in the final months of former President Donald Trump‘s term in office.
“We believe that rebuilding the dignity of America requires that we recommit ourselves to the tradition of due process, mercy, and judicial clemency when it comes to matters related to the criminal legal system,” the Democrats’ letter to Biden began. “For this reason, we urge you to immediately commute the sentences of all those on death row.”
The congresswomen said they appreciated Biden’s “vocal opposition to the death penalty and urge you to take swift, decisive action.”
Biden’s campaign website says his administration would “work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and incentivize” states to follow suit.
The Democrats claimed in the letter that President Trump left behind a legacy of “carnage and unrestrained violence” because of the number of executions in the last months of his presidency.
Then-Attorney General William Barr announced in July 2019 the government would resume federal executions for the first time in 17 years.
In recent weeks, those executed have included Corey Johnson, a Virginia man linked to seven murders, and Lisa Montgomery, who was convicted on charges that she strangled a pregnant woman and used a kitchen knife to remove the baby from the victim’s womb.
Trump voiced support for restoring the death penalty long before he became president.
“Either it will be brought back swiftly or our society will rot away,” Trump told Playboy magazine in 1990, according to The Associated Press.
For the country to find “accountability and healing,” the Democrats wrote, Americans much “first acknowledge the moral depravity of federal executions.”
The congresswomen advocated for a justice system that seeks to “rehabilitate and restore” rather than “penalize and execute.”
“Like slavery and lynching did before it, the death penalty perpetuates cycles of trauma, violence and state-sanctioned murder in Black and brown communities,” they wrote.
Pressley sent a similar letter to Biden before he took office in December, writing that his “historic election with record turnout represents a national mandate to make meaningful progress in reforming our unjust and inhumane criminal legal system.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.