The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders released his plan to reform the entire criminal justice system. This is from the Sanders campaign:
Blueprint aims to reform every aspect of America’s dysfunctional criminal justice system, ridding it of institutional racism and corporate profiteering
COLUMBIA, SC – Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running to be the Democratic candidate for president, released a comprehensive plan to reform the entire American criminal justice system in a speech he delivered August 18 in the Greenview neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina. The plan is designed to root out the institutional racism and corporate profiteering that is plaguing the existing system.
“If we stand together, we can eliminate private
prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people
up. If we stand together we can end the disastrous “war on drugs.” If we stand
together we can end cash bail. No more keeping people in jail because
they’re too poor. If we stand together we can enact real police department
reform and prosecute police brutality. If we stand together, there is nothing,
nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish.”
Sanders has fought mass incarceration during his decades in Congress, and he campaigned for president in 2016 on a pledge to end for-profit prisons — a pledge that other Democrats have subsequently decided to support 4 years later. Sanders’ new plan reiterates his original call to ban for-profit prisons, and builds on his leadership on criminal justice with new proposals for a top-to-bottom reform of America’s law enforcement, judicial and incarceration systems. They include:
End for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom
- Ending for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to
bottom, including banning cash bail and banning civil asset forfeiture, which
allows police departments to seize property from people who have not been
accused or convicted of a crime.
- Ensure the criminal justice system is not the “best justice money can buy” by vastly increasing funding for public defenders and creating a federal formula to ensure populations have a minimum number of public defenders to meet their needs, and working with states to set a minimum starting salary for public defenders.
End Mass Incarceration and Excessive Sentencing and Inhumane Incarceration and Transform the Way We Police Communities
- Reversing mass incarceration and setting a
goal of cutting the incarcerated population in half.
- Transforming the way we police our
communities, creating an unarmed civilian corp of first responders to handle
mental health emergencies, homelessness, and other low-level issues that should
not require contact with the police and criminal justice system.
- Creating national standards for use of police
force that emphasize de-escalation rather than violence, and holding police
misconduct to strict federal standards, including limiting qualified immunity
for police officers, creating a federal deadly use of force database, and a
registry of disreputable officers.
- Ending the War on Drugs, including legalizing
marijuana and expunging past convictions for marijuana-related offenses and finally
ending the sentencing disparities for crack cocaine and powder cocaine
- Abolishing the death penalty and solitary
- Enacting a Prisoner Bill of Rights for incarcerated individuals, including living wages, access to families, access to educational and vocational training, and the right to vote.
- Reverse the Criminalization of Communities, End Cycles of Violence and Provide Support to Survivors of Crime
Reversing the criminalization of disability, addiction, and homelessness.
- Treat children in the criminal justice system
as children. This means raising the age to charge children in adult court to
18, ending long mandatory minimum sentences and life without parole sentences
for youth, decriminalizing truancy, and investing in youth diversion programs
and alternatives to the court and prison system.
- End cycles of violence and interrupt them
before they begin. This means focusing law enforcement resources on solving
homicides and other serious crimes, funding Cure Violence programs and similar
proven violence interruption models, and ending the national rape kit
- Support the victims and survivors of crimes by providing sustained resources to survivors and their families, including mental health care, trauma recovery services, relocation services, and assistance with basic needs.
Read the full plan HERE.