Jul 23, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden releases criminal justice plan

Biden speaking with his hands extended forward.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden has released his criminal justice plan, which emphasizes the need to shift from incarceration to prevention.

Why it matters: Biden's record on criminal justice as a senator has faced scrutiny during his 2020 campaign. His backing of a controversial 1994 crime bill put him at odds with Democratic rivals and President Trump. This plan can help him rebrand himself on the issue, although senior Biden officials say he remains "fully prepared to talk about all of his record."

Details: Biden plans to overhaul several areas of the criminal justice system — including abolishing the death penalty, eliminating federal private prisons and ending cash bail. He would also stop mandatory minimums at the federal level and incentivize states to remove them. Other pledges include:

  • Expanding federal funding for mental health and substance abuse services.
  • Setting a goal of ensuring 100% of "formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon reentry."
  • Expanding the Department of Justice's ability to address "systemic misconduct" in law enforcement and prosectors' offices.
  • Boosting investments in public defenders' offices.
  • Decriminalizing the use of marijuana and expunge all previous cannabis convictions.
  • Ending prison sentences for drug use alone and exerting clemency power for "individuals facing unduly long sentences for certain non-violent and drug crimes."

By the numbers: Biden plans to create a $20 billion grant program to help states amp up preventative measures. And he intends to invest $1 billion a year in juvenile justice reform.

What to watch: Per a statement by the Biden campaign, "In the months ahead, Biden will also detail his plan to tackle the public health epidemic of gun violence in America, starting with universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines."

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