The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sanders Calls for End to Death Penalty During Senate Speech on Criminal Justice Reform


During a Senate floor speech today on criminal justice reform, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reiterated his long-standing opposition to the death penalty and called for marijuana to be removed from a list of drugs outlawed by the federal government.

"When we talk about criminal justice reform, I believe it is time for the United States of America to join almost every other Western, industrialized country on Earth in saying no to the death penalty," Sanders said. "We are all shocked and disgusted by some of the horrific murders that we see in this country, seemingly every week. And that is precisely why we should abolish the death penalty. At a time of rampant violence and murder, the State should not be part of that process."

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Sanders has opposed the death penalty his entire political career. "All over the industrialized world now, countries are saying, 'let us put an end to state murder, let us stop capital punishment'," Sanders said in opposition to the 1991 Violent Crime Prevention Act. "But here what we're talking about is more and more capital punishment."

Sanders also called for reform of a criminal justice system that puts more people in jail than any other country on earth and makes it harder for Americans to get back on their feet once they're out of jail.

"A criminal record stays with a person for his or her entire life--until the day he or she dies," Sanders said. "If a person has a criminal record, it will be much harder for that person later in life to get a job. Many employers simply will not hire somebody with a criminal record. A criminal record destroys lives."

Sanders also announced he will introduce legislation to remove marijuana from a list of drugs outlawed by the federal government, paving the way for states to enforce their own policies. "The time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off of the federal government's list of outlawed drugs," Sanders said.

Click here to read Sanders' prepared remarks.

United States Senator for Vermont

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