Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders listens to a question for the audience during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum, Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: AP
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Sanders' criminal justice plan aims to cut prison population

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By MEG KINNARD

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is proposing a criminal justice overhaul that aims to cut the nation's prison population in half, end mandatory minimum sentencing, ban private prisons and legalize marijuana. He says the current system does not fairly treat people of color, addicts or the mentally ill.

"We have a system that imprisons and destroys the lives of millions of people," Sanders told The Associated Press before the planned released of his proposal Sunday. "It's racist in disproportionately affecting the African American and Latino communities, and it's a system that needs fundamental change."

Sanders was promoting the plan during a weekend of campaigning in South Carolina, where the majority of the Democratic electorate is African American. The Vermont senator, who won the support of some younger black Democrats during the 2016 primary, has stepped up his references to racial disparities, particularly during stops in the South and urban areas.

As president, Sanders said he would abolish mandatory minimum sentencing and reinstate a federal parole system, end the "three strikes law" and expand the use of alternative sentencing, including community supervision and halfway houses. The goal is to reduce the prison population by one-half.

"A very significant number of people who are behind bars today are dealing with one form or another of illness," Sanders said. "These should be treated as health issues, not from a criminal perspective."

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness , 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails annually.

Taking aim at what his proposal calls "for-profit prison profiteering," Sanders would ban private prisons, make prison phone calls and other inmate communications free, and audit prison commissaries for price gouging and fees.

The plan would legalize marijuana and expunge previous marijuana convictions, and end a cash bail system that Sanders says keeps hundreds of thousands who have not been convicted of a crime languishing in jail because they cannot afford bail.

"Can you believe that, in the year 2019, 400,000 people are in jail awaiting a trial because they are poor?" Sanders said. "That is a moral outrage, it is a legal outrage."

According to the Prison Policy Initiative , more than 460,000 people are being held in local jails around the country while they await trial, with a median bail amount of $10,000 for felony offenses.

Sanders wants to improve relations between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. To do that, he proposes to end federal programs that provide military equipment to local police forces, establish federal standards for the use of body cameras, provide bias training and require that the Justice Department review all officer-involved shootings.

"You have a lot of resentment in minority communities all over this country, who see police forces not as an asset but as an invading force," Sanders said.

On capital punishment, Sanders' plan formalizes his call to end the federal death penalty and urges states to eliminate the punishment as well.

"When we talk about violence in society and trying to lower the levels of violence, it is not appropriate that the state itself is part of capital punishment," Sanders said.

Sanders said that over the long term, his plan will save the public money because of reductions to overall incarceration costs.

"It will cost money but it will pay for itself many, many times over," Sanders said. "Locking people up is very, very expensive."

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57 Comments

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 "Can you believe that, in the year 2019, 400,000 people are in jail awaiting a trial because they are poor?" 

No. They're in jail and awaiting trial because they've committed crimes. Being poor doesn't give you a pass or special status. Maybe thinking about how you'll pay for bail should be something the poor should think about before committing crimes. Life is all about personal decisions. Why don't the dems promote responsibility and smart decision making instead of cosigning disfunction?

"It's racist in disproportionately affecting the African American and Latino communities, and it's a system that needs fundamental change."

Despite everything being racist, does Bernie consider the fact that these demographics commit crimes at a rate disproportionate to their numbers? Probably not.

" Sanders would ban private prisons, make prison phone calls and other inmate communications free

C'mon Bernie! That's just too many frees now. Something's gotta give. Nothing in life is free. I guess law-abiding citizens will pay for the phone calls.

So basically Bernie's message is smoke pot, commit crimes, shirk personal responsibility, and if anyone confronts you about it, then they're racist. Don't worry about jail, bail and phone calls are free.

Some people will say anything to be president.

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

Some people will say anything to be president.

Trump.

8 ( +14 / -6 )

Trump.

Big big big difference. Trump is great because he tells you what you need to hear--maybe not what you want to hear and maybe a bit crass--but definitely what you need to hear. On the other hand, Bernie tells you what you want to hear and definitely not what you need to hear. In other words, Trump is the better choice. Bernie doesn't have a chance for my vote.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

This is “racist” too huh? The system disproportionately affects people of all colors who have committed crimes. Nice pandering though.

 "It's racist in disproportionately affecting the African American and Latino communities,

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

As is the loss of even one person killed by someone who was supposed to be in jail but was let out due to “identity politics”. That’s very, very expensive to the person who loses their life.

It will cost money but it will pay for itself many, many times over," Sanders said. "Locking people up is very, very expensive."

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

Trump is great because he tells you what you need to hear--maybe not what you want to hear and maybe a bit crass--but definitely what you need to hear

It’s cute you think that. Delusional. But cute.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

Why don't the dems promote responsibility and smart decision making instead of cosigning disfunction?

Yet, somehow, you support Donny. You know, the guy who refuses to take responsibility for anything despite creating a lot of issues. Too funny, and all we need to know.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

It’s cute you think that. Delusional. But cute.

Ahh… that tone that says: I don't have any argument.

Dems always assume an elitest, pretentious, patronizing position. They are the saviors after all. Free free free.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

More Free stuff!

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

A plan to release convicted felons -- like the guy who is currently serving a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence for killing my son -- back onto our streets. Yeah, that will sway us undecided independents to vote for democrat-socialists.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

Trump is great because he tells you what you need to hear--maybe not what you want to hear and maybe a bit crass--but definitely what you need to hear.

Nobody needs to hear how great his crowd sizes are or how great he thinks he is at all. That's probably 50-60% of what he talks about. Most of rest of the time he's out there insulting people... telling them "what you need to hear", the people already know the problems and reinforcing or reiterating those does nothing to help anybody. Strangerland had it pretty much spot on with his comment.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Bernie Sanders is proposing a criminal justice overhaul that aims to cut the nation's prison population in half, end mandatory minimum sentencing, ban private prisons and legalize marijuana. He says the current system does not fairly treat people of color, addicts or the mentally ill.

Common sense from a common sense candidate. Meanwhile, corporate criminals thrive. It's always the poor who suffer disproportionately.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

A plan to release convicted felons -- like the guy who is currently serving a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence for killing my son -- back onto our streets. Yeah, that will sway us undecided independents to vote for democrat-socialists.

Your done was killed by an immigrant, correct? Wouldn't it be nice if immigrants would go back to their own countries and make those places great?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

reiterating those does nothing to help anybody

Trump is helping the country; Bernie's a detriment.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Unlike many invertebrate American pols with a yellow streak down their back, Sanders has a fighter's backbone with the marrow of moral fiber and a fresh vision of a brighter future for the American people without which no president can turn America's listing ship of state from its disastrous right-wing, neocon course toward the looming reef of economic chaos and societal meltdown.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Trump is helping the country; Bernie's a detriment.

The evidence to support these assertions can be found here:

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Isn't Bernie the socialist 1%-er who enslaves his work staff and underpays them?

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Trump is helping the country;

To embrace fascism, yes, we've seen that.

All tyrants are toppled eventually.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Isn't Bernie the socialist 1%-er who enslaves his work staff and underpays them?

No, he isn't.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

No, he isn't.

"Truth over facts".

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Bernie used to rail against " millionaires" but after he he became one himself he switched his anger to " billionaires". What a joke and hypocrite

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Bernie used to rail against " millionaires" but after he he became one himself he switched his anger to " billionaires".

If he wins, he go after trillionaires.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

As for Trump saying what needs to heard, I've seen more convincing debate scrawled on toilet walls.

"When we talk about violence in society and trying to lower the levels of violence, it is not appropriate that the state itself is part of capital punishment," Sanders said.

He's bang on here, is Bernie. It's a big job, removing the inherent violence from US culture - that also means politicians refraining from advocating violence and inciting the mob mentality.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

So basically Bernie's message is smoke pot, commit crimes, shirk personal responsibility, and if anyone confronts you about it, then they're racist. Don't worry about jail, bail and phone calls are free.

Put another way, Trump's message is to lie (the meeting was about adoptions), commit crimes (Individual -1), shirk personal responsibility (its the Fed's fault), and if anyone confronts you, say they're playing the racist card (even though you rhetoric is clearly racist (infestations)....

Some people will say anything to be president.

Some people already have....and the harder thing to believe is some people actually voted for the fraud...

No, he isn't.

"Truth over facts".

You know, like yesterday, when a Trumper said Obama was the only President to leave office with less than 3% GDP (fib) when its easy to check that Bush Jr's average GDP was just 1.8% (fact)...

Trumpers have no concept of truth and facts....they still believe their guy is a paragon of marital fidelity...

3 ( +5 / -2 )

You know, like yesterday, when a Trumper said Obama was the only President to leave office with less than 3% GDP (fib) when its easy to check that Bush Jr's average GDP was just 1.8% (fact)...

"Alternate facts".

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Good.

The US criminal justice system is more criminal than just.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Finally some common sense. These proposals would go a long way to starting to solve some of the entrenched social ills the States have.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

If that plan doesn't involve helping prisoners reintegrate into society then it will be for nothing. There is still a lot of stigma that ex-cons face.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@kestrelMore Free stuff!

'Free' has joined 'progress' as pejoratives in the 'Totalitarianism Now' glossary.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Agreed on the mentally ill, but my guess is that they cannot simply be released into the general population. Institutionalization in a mental health facility is another form of incarceration and it will be expensive.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ike-in-Tokyo,

I believe thats whats known as an inconvenient truth.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

The reason most of them are inside is that they are surplus to economic needs, so capitalism monetizes them by incarcerating them and transferring tax revenues to the private sector from the public sector, as in most cases these prisons are privately owned, for-profit ventures. With a recession looming, look for more young black and brown men to be locked up for profit, not more being released. The overlords haven't made this much money on the backs of young black men since 1860.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Noidall: I want to give a private corporation millions of dollars every single year to keep a child who once smoked weed in prison for ten years. I want to shovel fistfuls of my own cash to keep kids imprisoned.

Bernie: That kid's calls to his family should be free.

Noidall: WHAT!? AND WHO'S GONNA PAY FOR THAT!?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

America does have the highest prison population in the world. Something like 2.4 million inmates. So any way to reduce that would be good.

Trump is also looking at ways to reduce the prison population and released about 3,000 since taking office.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Bernie Sanders is a crazy old millionaire socialist who has never had a real job outside government who wants government run health care for everyone which would balloon the federal deficit to unprecedented levels.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

The fun thing is this is gonna raise the "free stuff!", stakes among the Dem presidential candydates even more!

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

America does have the highest prison population in the world. Something like 2.4 million inmates. So any way to reduce that would be good.

Not just any way. The right way. Which is not Bernie's way.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Not just any way. The right way. Which is not Bernie's way.

Hah, so we're back to your health care strategy. "We are clueless, but we're going to whine about what the other team does".

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Hah, so we're back to your health care strategy. "We are clueless, but we're going to whine about what the other team does".

It's their strategy, not just their health care strategy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

the next Dem mass debate is gonna be lottsa fun. All trying to outdo each other in the pandering and free stuff department.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

the next Dem mass debate is gonna be lottsa fun. All trying to outdo each other in the pandering and free stuff department.

Much more entertaining than the hate fest that is the Republicans. Oh yeah, and the people they nominate too.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Kamala gotta try and dodge Tulsi's damning statements/questions. Popcorn time!

Sleepy Joe might even join the fun - unless he decides it looks better to stay above the fray in order to appear "presidenshal".

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Sleepy Joe might even join the fun

Stop just repeating Trump. You sound like a parrot.

Just for once, post something which deviates from the Trump supporting hymn sheet.

Think and use your own judgement. It’s hard but worth the effort.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Bernie Sanders is a crazy old millionaire socialist who has never had a real job outside government who wants government run health care for everyone which would balloon the federal deficit to unprecedented levels.

Sorry, Trump and the 1 percenter Repubs have already beat Bernie to that....

https://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/us-deficit-top-1t-2019

Kamala gotta try and dodge Tulsi's damning statements/questions. Popcorn time!

Its good to see so many Trumpers tuning in to the Dem debates - though it won't be the third rate reality TV show the Repub 2016 was....

Sleepy Joe might even join the fun - unless he decides it looks better to stay above the fray in order to appear "presidenshal".

Trumpers have the same spelling disability as their President - oranges vs origins, infantroopen, etc.....

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@lincolnman,

The Dem debates are great entertainment!

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

The Dem debates are great entertainment!

You must admit that don’t have the hilarious tabloid quality of Trump’s knob jokes, childish nicknames, later tweets about blood coming out of moderators and lying about instructing his followers to check out a non-existent sex tape on live TV.

Glad you like them though.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Do non felons who get released from jail get to vote Dem? Why the focus only on Latinos and African Americans rather than all Americans? Hmmm....

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@lincolnman,

The Dem debates are great entertainment!

Gee, I'm not sure if that's a compliment or an insult....I mean coming from someone who thinks "The Apprentice" is high brow entertainment....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The first season of The Apprentice was an undisputed ratings smash: it averaged 21 million viewers and soon garnered a two-season renewal from NBC.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Do non felons who get released from jail get to vote Dem? Why the focus only on Latinos and African Americans rather than all Americans? Hmmm....

And another Trumper can't make a comment without slandering and insulting Latinos and Black Americans....

And they just can't process how that's racist....

Just like their President I guess....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The first season of The Apprentice was an undisputed ratings smash: it averaged 21 million viewers and soon garnered a two-season renewal from NBC.

I understand "The Kardashians" is a smash hit too....I imagine both shows attract the same type of audience...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So all white people currently imprisoned deserve to be there? Sanders only focusing on releasing likely Dem voter groups.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

So all white people currently imprisoned deserve to be there? Sanders only focusing on releasing likely Dem voter groups.

Dem voter groups? You're off message with your President....

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/03/trump-black-voters-2020-1445491

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Jimizo,

Oh but the Dem debates are tabloid quality. Its hilarious watching that crue trying to outdo each other in the free stuff givaways and bending over backwards - and forwards - to ingratiate themselves with the pc set.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Oh but the Dem debates are tabloid quality. Its hilarious watching that crue trying to outdo each other in the free stuff givaways and bending over backwards - and forwards - to ingratiate themselves with the pc set.

Yea, actual policy issues - in comparison to the size of someone's "hands" or whether someone's father was an accessory to JFK's assassination....

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Someone read The NY Times narrative to try to link everything to “racism” now that muh Russia spectacularly failed.

There is not one racist thing in what I am saying. Bernie only cares about releasing those 2 groups in order to pander for votes.

Meanwhile Trump took action on criminal reform and unemployment and as a result his support from these 2 groups had risen significantly. Which is scaring Dems into pandering like Hillary did with the hot sauce in the purse nonsense. (That’s “racist”)

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Oh but the Dem debates are tabloid quality. Its hilarious watching that crue trying to outdo each other in the free stuff givaways and bending over backwards - and forwards - to ingratiate themselves with the pc set.

That’s not tabloid quality.

Knob jokes, childish nicknames like ‘sleepy Joe’ and lying about non-existent sex tapes is tabloid quality.

What you are talking about is the usual way debates happen. The Republicans are usually arguing about who loves Jesus and firearms the most, and who likes science and taxes the least.

Trump turned debates into pure tabloid. I must admit, some of it was funny. The sex tape lie was a beauty.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

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