Our next president will step into the Oval Office the day after the
sun sets on Donald Trump’s presidency. That president must offer a
vision bold enough to tackle our pressing challenges but also unifying
enough to heal a country that will be more divided and vulnerable than
it is now.
For too long America’s criminal justice system
has suffered from a legacy of racism. Every day we see a system that
inflicts, reflects and compounds injustice and inequality in black and
brown communities. South Carolinians know this too well: despite making
up 28 percent of the overall population, black South Carolinians account
for 62 percent of the incarcerated population. And black South
Carolinians with no criminal histories are given longer sentences than
South Carolina also allows criminal history
questions on employment applications, locking people out of employment
The policies that led to this inequity were put
in place intentionally, and we must be equally intentional about
So building on my Douglass Plan for Black
America, my administration will deliver ambitious reforms to our
criminal justice system.
First, we must work to reduce the number of
incarcerated people in America by 50 percent. We will achieve this by
taking steps that will include ending incarceration for all drug
possession offenses and eliminating mandatory minimums.
And with over 43,000 young people behind bars on
any given day, we will provide $100 million in grants to states to close
youth prisons and repurpose them to serve the needs of children.
At the state level, we will double federal
funding dedicated to decarceration efforts to ensure people are not
serving unnecessarily long sentences — and we will incentivize states to
process evidence backlogs to prevent people from languishing in jail
while waiting for results.
We will also ensure better conditions for those
who are incarcerated — preventing the next Lee Correctional Institution
riot — and provide greater opportunities when they are released.
As the president of the United States, I will end
the use of prolonged solitary confinement, reduce sexual assault in
prisons and prioritize suicide reduction.
We will promote policies that reflect basic human
decency, such as providing free phone calls for people to remain
connected to loved ones and free women’s hygiene products to
incarcerated women. And we will ensure that people have a real shot at a
second chance by restoring Pell Grant access to the incarcerated and
promoting fair chance hiring by banning the box.
Why? Because incarceration should be about redemption as much as detention.
Finally, we will improve police training and
accountability. I will increase transparency in law enforcement by
providing resources to states to standardize data reporting and adopt
early warning systems to flag troubling behavior by officers.
We will raise the legal standard under which
officers are justified in using lethal force, and we will promote
legislation to end qualified immunity to allow police to be held
accountable for unlawful actions.
And when incidents do occur, they will be
evaluated by a national review board — similar to how the National
Transportation Safety Board assesses an aviation or highway crash — to
learn how we can improve.
Scripture says, “Blessed is he … who secures justice for the oppressed.” With bold action, we can finally bring our criminal justice system in line with our deepest values.
Criminal justice reform can’t only enact neutral policies. It must reverse years of racist ones
“Justice for all” has to really mean for all. My plan to transform our system will help heal the injustices built into the process and the institutions.
in a courtroom that doesn’t provide adequate defense or a classroom
where minor infractions yield major punishments, Black people are still
marked by a criminal justice system that was built against them.
In 2006, for instance, Cyntoia Brown was sentenced to 51 years to life in prison
after fighting off a man she believed would kill her. It didn’t matter
that she had been sex trafficked; it didn’t matter that she was only 16.
The decision to treat girls like Cyntoia as hardened criminals beyond
redemption was made a long time ago — and it pervades our society.
sources of these disparities are not incidental, but intentional. They
are a product of decades of racist policies, most within living memory.
Thus, replacing those policies with neutral ones just isn’t going to cut
it. Injustice does not heal, it compounds.
is why I’m proposing a bold approach to reverse these wrongs in our
criminal legal system and ensure justice that truly is for all.
plan cuts our incarcerated population by 50 percent, because we know
that incarceration often does even more harm than what it was meant to
punish. We will work to achieve this by this by eliminating
incarceration for drug possession, ending mandatory minimums and
legalizing marijuana. Because profit should never be the motivation for
justice, we’ll take steps to abolish private prisons, and shut down the
for-profit bail industry to stop the predatory extraction of wealth from
Black communities. And for those who currently serve punitively long
sentences, we will establish an independent clemency commission, outside
of the Department of Justice, to recommend broad categories of people
to be released.
This election, we have the chance to transform our criminal justice system into something that works for all Americans
My administration will also pay particular attention to the over 40,000 children incarcerated in the United States,
because children should be treated as children. That starts with
investing in a new $100 million federal competitive grant for states and
localities to close down youth prisons and expand programming that
actually meets the needs of children. We will push to raise the age at
which one can be tried as an adult, remove children from adult jails and
prisons and enforce the Supreme Court’s ban on juvenile life sentences
Good intentions are not enough. We need meaningful change and a new approach.
plan to reimagine policing starts with promoting practices and policies
that raise the legal standard under which officers can use lethal force
and abolishing qualified immunity, which often prohibits officers from
being held accountable in court. We will promote bias-free policing by
creating a four-year national police academy. Finally, we will ensure
police accountability by creating a national review board to
independently assess officer misconduct and reinvigorating the
Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division with the purpose of
investigating the complaints thoroughly and promoting accountability.
election, we have the chance to transform our criminal justice system
into something that works for all Americans. This is not just an
opportunity — it is an obligation. These injustices have a long history
within our government, often devised by those in the highest offices. In
many respects, what happened to Cyntoia Brown is still happening all
across the country. Good intentions are not enough. We need meaningful
change and a new approach. And that’s exactly what I’m prepared to bring