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January 24, 2020

Prez candidate Tom Steyer releases his plan for "Transforming Criminal Justice"

Back in the fall, it seemed that nearly every week we would see a big new criminal justice reform plan coming from one of the Democratic candidates for President (and I have collected a lot of the posts with this plans below).  But, of course, as the first set of votes approach, we have seen more of these candidates dropping out than proposing big plan.  And yet, excitingly, this press release details that there is now at least one more new reform plan under the heading, "Tom Steyer Will End Cash Bail and School-to-Prison Pipeline: New criminal justice plan will end mass incarceration by focusing on prevention and rehabilitation."  Here is how the press release starts:

Presidential candidate Tom Steyer unveiled a plan to reform the criminal justice system to end mass incarceration breaking the school-to-prison pipeline and fixing the pay-to-play justice system. Steyer’s plan pursues aggressive reforms including doubling the juvenile justice program to keep kids out of prison, and ending the prison industrial complex by closing private prisons, abolishing cash bail and court fees. The plan would reduce the number of individuals entering the criminal justice system, prioritize rehabilitative efforts behind bars, and support individuals when they return to society.  

The full plan runs 17(!) detailed pages, with major section headings that include "Juvenile Justice," "Police Reform," "A Progressive Department of Justice," "Equal Access to Justice in Court," "End Cash Bail," "Release More Rehabilitated People," and "Ensure Returning Citizens Have A Second Chance." There are elements under all these heading that should be of interest to sentencing fans, though the sections on "Ending the War on Drugs" and "Sentencing Reform" and "Improve Prison Conditions" may be of special interest. Here are just a few items from these sections of the Steyer plan:

  • End mandatory minimums and expand judicial discretion for non-violent drug offenders.  Mandatory minimum sentences have played a significant role in increasing mass incarceration by reducing the discretion that a judge has in sentencing an individual for a non-violent drug offense based upon their past record. Punishments should be proportional to the crime. Mandatory minimums reinforce racial prejudice in the system and do not increase public safety.  Tom supports the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bill that reduces mandatory minimum sentences for certain non-violent drug offenders and increases judicial review....

  • Legalize marijuana use and expunge past records.  Policing marijuana use has led to too many unfair incarcerations and predominantly impacted communities of color. Tom endorses the MORE Act, a bill that will deschedule marijuana at the federal level and let states set their own policies.  This bill will also expunge past records and provide individuals who served time for marijuana convictions the opportunity to participate in the legal market, including access to training programs....

  • Eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes.  As president, Tom will work to eliminate mandatory minimums for all federal non-violent crimes and allow judges more discretion for more serious crimes. And because most people are incarcerated at the state and local level, his administration will incentivize states to eliminate mandatory minimums as well.  Mandatory minimums have been responsible for much of the increase in incarceration.  Tom endorses the Justice Safety Valve Act, a bill that allows judges to use discretion and depart from mandatory minimums when appropriate....

  • Revitalize and reform the Sentencing Commission. T om will fully staff the Sentencing Commission with appointees who will strive for a more progressive criminal justice system.  He will direct the Commission to conduct additional studies on mass incarceration and recidivism and update sentencing guidelines to reflect those priorities.  Tom will double the Commission’s funding so it can offer technical assistance to states.

  • Eliminate the death penalty.  Tom believes it is a moral, practical, and long overdue imperative to end the death penalty.  He believes these individuals should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole. Tom will abolish the death penalty at the federal level and encourage states to do the same.

A few of many prior related posts:

January 24, 2020 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

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