Joe Biden Unveils Criminal Justice Plan That Tackles Effects Of The 1994 Crime Bill He Once Championed

The Democratic candidate wants to eliminate mandatory sentencing and abolish the death penalty.

After a few shaky weeks of campaigning and a “poor” debate performance, Joe Biden is taking a step back and letting his policies have the spotlight. 

Most recently, the Democratic candidate unveiled his plan to reform the criminal justice system, which directly addresses the "tough on crime" era bills he once supported.

In the 10-page "Biden Plan for Strengthening America's Commitment to Justice,” Biden outlined how his administration would reduce the number of people in prison while also making the country safer. 

Similarly to the First Step Act, signed into law by the Trump administration last year, Biden’s plan will work to reduce mass incarceration and decrease the chances of recidivism.

Many of the policies in the plan reverse anti-crime laws of the 1980s and 1990s, specifically the 1994 crime bill he spearheaded as a senator.

The ACLU acknowledges the 1994 crime bill exacerbated the already growing issue of mass incarceration by incentivizing states to create more prisons and pass their own “tough on crime” legislation. Sure, that reduced crime, statistically speaking, but it also resulted in the growth of mass incarceration rates for nearly 15 years.

Although many politicians admit the bill disproportionately incarcerated Black and brown men and women, some, like Biden, still stand by parts of the legislation.

"It worked in some areas but it failed in others,” Biden told a crowd in Sumter, South Carolina.  "Like every major change, you go back and make it better."

If elected president, Biden plans to tackle mass incarceration and re-structure sentencing laws. His plan will eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses, which Biden once supported by cosponsoring the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. 

Biden’s justice policy will also end the disparity of federal charges for crack and powder cocaine crimes, something Biden also supported in the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act.

Additionally, Biden hopes to do abolish the death penalty on the federal level. At the moment, the Trump administration has done nothing but call for more federal death sentences, reported the Associated Press.

When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, Biden believes "we need more research to study the positive and negative impacts of cannabis use,” a campaign official told CBS News.

The plan also advocates for closing private prisons on a federal level and eliminating almost all uses of solitary confinement.

Other ideas in the plan include a $20 billion investment in a grant program for states, counties and cities to "receive funding to invest in efforts proven to reduce crime and incarceration."

Biden is among just a handful of other 2020 candidates who have released their comprehensive plans for criminal justice reform. In addition to the former vice president, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Bernie Sanders have revealed their plans and ideas to fix the system.

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