Columbia, SC – Presidential hopeful U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) unveiled a plan for revamping the country’s criminal justice system during his campaign tour of South Carolina on Sunday that included cutting prison populations in half and creating a federal “registry of disreputable federal law enforcement officers.”
“We have a criminal justice system that is racist and broken, and working together we’re going to fundamentally transform it,” Sanders tweeted with a link to the proposal.
The proposal, titled “Justice and Safety for All,” started out with a sweeping list of progressive reforms aimed at the incarcerated population.
Sanders has vowed that, as President, he would end cash bail for federal crimes and withhold funding from states that that do not follow suit.
“Can you believe that, in the year 2019, 400,000 people are in jail awaiting a trial because they are poor?” Sanders said during the announcement, according to the Associated Press. “That is a moral outrage, it is a legal outrage.”
He also wanted to ban for-profit prisons, make prisoners’ phone calls and video chats free, and ensure that prison commissaries don’t engaged in price-gouging.
The proposal also promised to “transform” policing and hold “police and sheriff’s departments to a higher standard.”
“…we must end harmful policing practices like racial profiling, stop and frisk, oppressive ‘broken windows’ policing, and the militarization of police forces — all of which actively undermine public safety and community trust in law enforcement,” the plan said.
Sanders has vowed to rescind former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ guidance on consent decrees for police departments and revitalize the use of U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) investigations, consent decrees, federal lawsuits “to address systemic constitutional violations by police departments.”
The plan also promised to limit the police officers’ use of “qualified immunity” and mandate criminal liability for civil rights violations resulting from police misconduct.
Additionally, the plan called for a federal police use-of-deadly-force database and a “registry of disreputable federal law enforcement officers.”
Sanders would establish a federal no-call policy for those officers deemed “untrustworthy” and provide financial support to state and local governments to create their own lists of “disreputable” officers.
The proposal also included several key components that would actually make it harder for law enforcement officers to do their jobs.
Sanders would put an end to providing surplus military equipment to local police and sheriff’s departments and he would ban the use of facial recognition software in policing, as well as other risk assessment tools, according to the proposal.
“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 explained during the announcement, the Associated Press reported.
The plan advocated grants to establish civilian oversight committees that would have enforceable accountability mechanisms built in.
As if setting up roadblocks to police investigations and arrests wasn’t enough, Sanders’ plan also included a section about propping up public defenders.
Under Sanders proposal, federal spending on indigent defense would be tripled to an annual $14 billion cash infusion.
And he would cancel all school loan debt for public defenders.
The plan, which was all over the map, also called for an end to the death penalty, the federal legalization of marijuana, the establishment of drug injection sites, an end to the “three strikes” law, a ban on the prosecution of juveniles in adult courts, the decriminalization of truancy, an end solitary confinement, and the creation of a Prisoner Bill of Rights which includes the right to vote.