Ilhan Omar has leapt to the defence of a 21-year-old man who was imprisoned for oversleeping and missing the first day of his jury service.
Deandre Somerville, from West Palm Beach in Florida, was sentenced to 10 days in jail, 150 hours of community service and handed a $223 (£180) fine for sleeping through his alarm.
The young man, who cares for his elderly grandfather and works in after-school programmes for the West Palm Beach parks and recreation department, was also ordered to pen a “sincere” apology letter.
Ms Omar, a Democrat representative, argued the stringent sanctions imposed on Mr Somerville were symptomatic of a US criminal justice system devised to “criminalise people of colour”.
The Minnesota congresswoman, who is one of the first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress, tweeted: “This judge put a young black man with no prior arrests in the system for *checks notes* oversleeping. We must reform our criminal justice system, which is designed to criminalize people of colour.”
Mr Somerville, who has already served the jail time, was supposed to be on a jury for a negligence case linked to a car accident at the end of August but slept in around two hours longer than he was supposed to.
The young man, who lives with his grandparents and had no previous criminal record, said he did not get in touch with the court due to feeling anxious.
“I woke up and I was like, ‘Oh shoot, it’s past the time’,” he told WPTV.
He added: “After going through that, my life will never be the same again.”