Joe Biden unveiled his plan aimed at ending racial discrimination in the American legal system, Yahoo News reports. Parts of his plan include not jailing people for simple drug offenses, and ending the death penalty.
In some ways, Biden is partially responsible for the situation he is trying to undo. Back in the 1990s, when Biden was serving as a U.S. Senator, he cast a “Yes” vote on a Clinton-era crime bill that, among other things, provided funding for more prisons, enacted so-called “three strikes” laws, and is generally believed to play at least a part in the mass incarceration of black and Latino Americans.
The 1994 Crime Bill was just one of several legislative efforts at the time, part of what a Reuters writer describes as a “tough-on-crime” era that lasted from roughly the 1970s to around 2010. Biden, for his part, has claimed that the Crime Bill did not play a role in mass incarceration.
Nevertheless, Biden claims that there is, indeed, a racial disparity in the way the justice system treats whites as opposed to how it treats blacks and Latinos, both at the federal level and at the state and local levels. And he laid out a plan that intends to address that.
Parts of the plan involve addressing failures in how drug crimes are prosecuted. Biden wants, for example, to end prison sentences for drug-only crimes (that is, simple possession or sale). He also wants to decriminalize cannabis, and expunge the criminal convictions of all offenders who have served time, or are serving time, for cannabis-related crimes.
Further, he wants to end the distinction between powder cocaine and crack cocaine; crack generally carries harsher sentences, which some view as racially-biased and unfair.
Prevention Rather Than Incarceration; The Death Penalty
Biden also proposes offering states up to $20 billion in grants in order to fund efforts aimed at preventing people from getting into lives of crime in the first place. Biden also supports ending the death penalty at the federal level, and encouraging the few states that still employ it to abolish it.
“Weaponizing” Biden’s Record
In addition to supporting the Crime Bill that in some ways created the problems Biden is trying to address, Biden has also supported the death penalty at different times in his career.
His record on crime may come back to haunt him when it comes to the voters, says an unidentified senior Biden campaign official. However, that same official said that the 2020 presidential candidate has evolved.
“This plan is a true reflection of what he believes: he believes in second chances,” said the official.