30 July 2019 :

A few hours after the Trump administration announced it was bringing back federal executions, former vice president and 2020 candidate Joe Biden had a single message: abolish the death penalty. Every top 2020 Democrat now supports ending the death penalty. Joe Biden has reversed a major sticking point from his time in the Senate. The former vice president has joined up with nearly every Democrat running for president, revealing that he supports ending the death penalty nationwide. Biden previously supported the death penalty, but in his criminal justice plan unveiled Tuesday, he said he'll work to abolish the death penalty at both the state and federal levels, with death row prisoners receiving life-without-parole sentences instead. Biden unveiled a sweeping criminal justice platform on Tuesday, which acknowledges that "too many people are incarcerated in the United States — and too many of them are black and brown." So he's pledged to "root out the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the system" while rerouting criminal justice toward "redemption and rehabilitation." Part of that plan includes eliminating the death penalty because "over 160 individuals who’ve been sentenced to death in this country since 1973 have later been exonerated," Biden's website reads. So if he's elected, Biden says he'll "work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government's example." That plan puts Biden in line with Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and pretty much every other 2020 Democrat. Biden had advocated for capital punishment while in the Senate, but appeared to be dropping that stance over the past few months. Other provisions in Biden’s new policy proposal: decriminalize marijuana and expunge past cannabis-related convictions; end the disparity between sentences for powder and crack cocaine; do away with all incarceration for drug use alone; end cash bail; terminate the federal government’s use of private prisons. It includes a provision to ensure that people who are imprisoned are treated humanely and that women in custody are provided health-care protections. The plan would invest $1 billion annually in juvenile justice reform, give states incentives to stop incarcerating minors, and create a $20 billion grant program to spur states to move from incarceration to crime prevention and eliminate mandatory-minimum sentences. The release of Biden’s criminal justice plan comes about a week before the next round of televised Democratic primary debates, when his record is expected to come under renewed scrutiny. In 1994 Biden sponsored a bill that expanded death penalty-eligible crimes while he was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That crime bill has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, who argue that it led to mass incarceration and tilted the system unfairly against African Americans. 

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