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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a town hall at the Aratani Theater in Los Angeles on July 25, 2019. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Sanders Unveils Plan to End Cash Bail, Ban Private Prisons, and 'Fundamentally Transform' US Criminal Justice System

"If we stand together, we can eliminate private prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people up."

Jake Johnson

Decrying America's status as the "world's leading jailer," Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday released a comprehensive plan to confront the crisis of mass incarceration, end the criminalization of poverty, and dramatically overhaul the U.S. criminal justice system.

"We have a criminal justice system that is racist and broken, and working together we're going to fundamentally transform it," said Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

The platform, which Sanders unveiled at an event in Columbia, South Carolina on Sunday, condemns America's "overly-punitive approach to public safety" and urges investments "to rebuild the communities that mass incarceration continues to decimate."

"We have over two million people in jail and prison, more than any other nation on earth, and they are disproportionately African-American, Latino, and Native American," Sanders wrote in an email to supporters on Sunday. "We spend $80 billion a year keeping people behind bars, money which could be used for education, job creation, and affordable housing."

To remedy this dysfunctional and devastating system, Sanders' platform—detailed on his website—calls for:

  • A ban on private prisons as part of a broader effort to "end profiteering in our criminal justice system";
  • An end to cash bail, which traps poor Americans in a cycle of debt;
  • Halting excessive sentencing "with the goal of cutting the incarcerated population in half";
  • Transformation of policing by ensuring oversight and accountability for law enforcement, banning use of facial recognition software by law enforcement, and ending "programs that provide military equipment to local police";
  • Abolishing the death penalty;
  • Legalization of marijuana and erasure of past marijuana convictions; and
  • An end to the criminalization of addiction by funding adequate treatment for those addicted to opioids.

"If we stand together, we can eliminate private prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people up," Sanders said during his speech in South Carolina.

"If we stand together we can end the disastrous 'war on drugs,'" the senator added. "If we stand together we can end cash bail. No more keeping people in jail because they're too poor. If we stand together we can enact real police department reform and prosecute police brutality. If we stand together, there is nothing, nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish."

Watch the speech:


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'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·


80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·

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