Former vice president and 2020 Democratic front-runner Joe Biden made a bold statement on the subject of criminal justice reform during Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate in Houston, Texas.
While defending his record on criminal justice reform, Biden told the debate moderator that nonviolent offenders shouldn’t be serving jail time, according to Politico.
“The fact of the matter is that what’s happened is that we’re in a situation now where there are so many people who are in jail and shouldn’t be in jail. The whole means by which this should change is to — the model has to change,” Biden said.
“Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime,” he added.
The Washington Examiner reported that a Biden aide later confirmed that Biden was referring to “non-violent drug related crimes.”
After making the statement, Biden focused on reminding the moderators and the audience of the number of commutations that took place during his time as vice president in Barack Obama’s administration. He also insisted that nonviolent drug offenders should be sent to rehab facilities instead of prison.
“Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem,” Biden said.
Biden has had to focus on defending his record on race and criminal justice reform, as both topics have landed him in fiery exchanges during the first two Democratic primary debates, especially during the first debate when California Sen. Kamala Harris hit the former vice president on the busing issue.
According to Politico, Biden released his plan to tackle criminal justice reform in July, which included his new position on opposing the death penalty — which is something he backed for decades while he served in the U.S. Senate.
His plan to make inroads on the criminal justice issue first focuses on addressing mental health issues and other “underlying factors” that can eventually lead to people committing crime and landing in jail. Part of his plan also entails what he calls a “competitive grant program,” which would provide $20 billion to various U.S. cities, counties, and states to tackle issues that are correlated with incarceration, like child abuse and illiteracy.
Should he win the presidency, Biden has pledged to push for an end to mandatory minimum sentencing, cash bail, decriminalizing marijuana, and expunging the records of those who have marijuana-related offenses in their past.
Many of his newly proposed ideas are in stark contrast to what he has supported in the past as a senator from Delaware. Biden is still criticized for his part in crafting several bills in the past, like the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which led to mandatory drug-related sentences, according to The Inquisitr.
He has also been slammed for his role in passing the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which critics blame for a rise in incarceration of people of color.