How Joe Biden would address criminal justice reform

Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled his plan to reform America’s criminal justice system, announcing his opposition to the death penalty, even though he supported capital punishment for decades as a U.S. senator.

“Over 160 individuals who’ve been sentenced to death in this country since 1973 have later been exonerated,” the former vice president’s plan states. “Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example. These individuals should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole.”

Biden raised eyebrows as recently as last month for a remark at an event in New Hampshire congratulating the state’s voters for repealing the death penalty. But the roll-out of his criminal justice proposal made clear that the Democratic frontrunner was ready to change his long-held policy position amid a competitive primary in a leftward-shifting party.

What would the plan do?

Biden’s plan includes a variety of proposals related to education and mental health aimed at addressing the “underlying factors” that lead to crime and incarceration, including creating a $20 billion “competitive grant program” that would allocate funding to counties, cities and states for investments targeting “factors like illiteracy and child abuse that are correlated with incarceration.”

Biden’s plan seeks to “confront racial and income-based disparities” in the American criminal justice system and “eliminate overly harsh sentencing for non-violent crimes.” Biden pledges his administration’s Justice Department will “use its authority to root out unconstitutional or unlawful policing” and says his DOJ leadership “will prioritize the role of using pattern-or-practice investigations.”

Outside the Justice Department, Biden calls for the establishment of an “independent Task Force on Prosecutorial Discretion,” which would “make recommendations for tackling discrimination and other problems in our justice system that results from arrest and charging decisions.” He also calls for greater federal investments in public defenders’ offices.

As president, Biden says he will do away with the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences, end cash bail, advocate for legislation to eliminate mandatory minimums, and halt the use of private prisons by the federal government. His plan calls for decriminalizing cannabis use and automatically expunging prior cannabis-use convictions, as well as ending incarceration “for drug use alone.”

Click Here: Papua New Guinea Rugby Shop

He also calls for investing $1 billion per year in juvenile-justice reform efforts, ensuring all former prisoners have access to housing upon re-entry into society, prioritizing the prosecution of hate crimes, and re-authorizing and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act.

How much would it cost?

Biden’s various initiatives, investments and grant programs would cost billions of dollars.

How would he pay for it?

It’s not clear, though Biden would argue that the efforts he outlines would reduce America’s prison population and thus slash the amount of taxpayer money spent on incarcerated people.

What have other Democrats proposed?

Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro has released a plan to reform America’s police system, Sen. Kamala Harris has released a plan to increase housing assistance for former inmates, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has released a plan to ban private prisons.

Who would it help?

Biden’s plan would help the formerly incarcerated, public defenders, those convicted of cannabis use and many others.

Who opposes it?

Biden’s plan would likely be met by opposition from companies that contract with the federal government for private prisons, those who favor stricter criminal penalties for drug use, and others.