Can Biden-Harris Fulfill an Ambitious Justice Reform Agenda?
Reducing mass incarceration, expanding government oversight of local police and prosecutorial misconduct, juvenile justice reform, and increasing the rights and resources for the formerly incarcerated top the criminal justice reform agenda for the Biden-Harris administration.
Ending Mass Incarceration
Biden has pledged to allocate billions of dollars of funding toward a grant program aimed at promoting crime prevention within state and local governments that get to the root of the source of crime: poor neighborhoods, child abuse, and limited education access, according to the Biden-Harris Transition plan.
Biden says he could reduce the U.S. prison population by more than half by prioritizing “redemption and rehabilitation” over punishment. To do this, Biden says that he will “end the federal government’s use of private prisons,” which would build off an Obama-Biden Administration policy that the Trump Administration rescinded.
The Biden-Harris Administration also pledges to end mass incarceration by eliminating the racial disparities that plague the system, and by “ensuring fair sentences” so individuals do not spend a majority of their life behind bars, the Transition Plan outlines.
Police Reform and Oversight
Among the measures contemplated in the area of police reform are:
To build on these reforms, the Biden-Harris Administration would also direct the Justice Department to focus on prosecuting hate crimes. The plan also advocates for an increase in federal funding to go towards public defenders’ offices as well, NPR details.
To make this possible, the Biden-Harris Administration will invest $1 billion per year to juvenile justice reform, mostly funded into grant programs and helping children get the legal representation they need, as well as expunging appropriate records to help the child reintegrate.
Biden has promised to expand tools for educational institutions to end the school-to- prison pipeline and add funding for “after-school programs, community centers, and summer jobs to keep young people active, busy, learning, and having fun.”
Moreover, the campaign website notes that these policies have been developed with the help of children and young adults who were formerly incarcerated as children — proving to many that President-elect Biden is willing to listen to the people who are most impacted by these policies.
Offering Second Chances
“After incarcerated individuals serve their time, they should have the opportunity to fully reintegrate into society, earn a good living, and participate in our democracy as our fellow citizens,” Biden’s campaign website states.
His platform continues: “It will not only benefit them; it will benefit all of society.”
To make this happen, he’ll start by directing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to “only contract with entities that are open to housing individuals looking for a second chance.”
The Biden-Harris administration would also act to expand access to mental and substance use disorder heal treatment, as well as increasing education opportunities and job training for individuals during and after incarceration.
By eliminating many of the barriers that prevent formerly incarcerated individuals to get their life back, Biden’s campaign website says this will help individuals being to fully participate in their society again, while “strengthening America’s commitment to justice.”