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Tipsheet

Biden Walks Back His Previous Tough On Crime Stance Now That Criminal Justice Reform Is Popular

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) was one of the main senators who worked on the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, commonly referred to as the 1994 crime bill. He touted this "tough-on-crime" stance when it fitted him. 

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"Let me tell you what is in the bill and I'll let you all decide whether or not this is weak. Let me get down here at the compendium of the things that are in the bill," Biden previously said on the Senate floor. "One: the death penalty. It provides 53 death penalty offenses."

"Weak as can be, you know? We do everything but hang people for jaywalking in this bill. Weak stuff," Biden said, clearly mocking critics. 

Now that most people are in favor of criminal justice reform, especially after the Trump administration got the FIRST Step Act passed, Biden is changing his tune. 

Biden's campaign just announced a new criminal justice reform plan that would allegedly reduce incarceration rates, especially amongst poor and minority communities.

Here's what the "Biden Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice" calls for:

• Instead of incarcerating people for drug offenses alone, they should be sent to drug court and treatment facilities.

• The passage of the SAFE Justice Act.

• Creating a $20 billion competitive grant program to encourage states to move from incarceration to rehabilitation.

• Investing in education, including pre-K, providing every high schooler with advanced credits or an industry credential upon graduation and making college free.

• Expanding federal funding for mental health and substance use disorder services and research. 

• Funding initiatives to partner mental health and substance use disorder experts, social workers, and disability advocates with police departments.

• Expanding and using the power of the U.S. Justice Department to address systemic misconduct in police departments and prosecutors’ offices.

• Establishing an independent task force on prosecutorial discretion. 

• Investing in public defenders’ offices to ensure defendants’ access to quality counsel.

• Eliminating mandatory minimums.

• End the federal crack and powder cocaine disparity.

• Decriminalizing  the use of cannabis and automatically expunging all prior cannabis use convictions. 

• Eliminating the death penalty.

• Using the president’s clemency power to secure the release of individuals facing unduly long sentences for certain non-violent and drug crimes.

• Ending cash bail.

• Ending the use of private prisons.

• Investing $1 billion per year in juvenile justice reform.

• Incentivizing states to create alternatives to incarceration by establishing an $100 million pilot program in 15-30 states and counties.  

• Expanding funding for after-school programs, community centers, and summer jobs.

• Ensuring 100 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon reentry.

• Reducing gun violence.

• Reducing violence against women.

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What's wrong, Uncle Joe? You were such a fan of the death penalty in 1994. What changed? Oh. That's right. You're running for president. Most Americans want to see criminal justice reform, especially as incarceration rates for non-violent offenses continues to rise. 

It's not popular to be "tough-on-crime Joe" anymore, is it?

We call that political pandering. And voters will see right though you.

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