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."
"We spent, and I want everybody to hear this, $80 billion a year in tax dollars at the local, state, and federal level to lock up fellow Americans... It might be a better idea to take some of that $80 billion and start investing in our young people." @BernieSanders pic.twitter.com/KyEv2q9hsf
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) August 18, 2019
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: