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2020 Election Guide

Criminal Justice





President Donald Trump

Supports private prisons

  • Supports private prisons that are run by private corporations for profits. These corporations are paid by the government based on the number of prisoners they hold
  • Under Trump, the DOJ reversed an Obama administration order to phase out the use of private contractors to run federal prisons.
  • Trump sued California over private prison ban.
  • Trump's immigration policies have also resulted in the detention of many migrants in these private prisons.


Supports the death penalty

  • Resumed federal executions after 16 years, at least 5 death row inmates have been executed under his administration


Reduced mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses

  • Passed the First Step Act which shortens mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
  • Over 3,000 prisoners have been released under the First Step Act
  • Removed mandatory life sentences for “three-strikes” drug offenders
  • Signed the Interdict Act to provide Customs agents $9 million for additional equipment to detect fentanyl and other opioids entering the country.


Does not support legalization of cannabis

  • Proposed removing medical marijuana protections in the 2021 fiscal budget
  • Would effectively end the federal prohibition on marijuana and leave the issue up to the states
  • Legalized industrial hemp


Does not support the call to defund the police

  • Signed an executive order to incentivize police departments to update their standards on training and credentialing by rewarding them with federal grant money opportunities
  • He feels the police force is understaffed and under supported, wants to increase investment


Has criticized violent protests amid the BLM movement

  • Signed an executive order calling for arrests of people who vandalize federal monuments and statues.
  • Launched Operation LeGend which allowed sending federal law enforcement to cities that saw a rise in violence amid the BLM movement


Eliminated the practice of holding juveniles in adult correctional facilities

  • Prohibits states from holding juveniles for more than seven days on offenses like truancy or running away from home
  • Under the act, states must begin collecting data on racial disparities in the juvenile system -- and develop strategies to address those inequalities



Former VP Joe Biden

Does not support private prisons and wants to end it

  • Wants to crack down on the practice of private companies charging incarcerated individuals and their families high fees to make calls
  • Will eliminate all other methods of profiteering off of incarceration – including diversion programs, cash bail, and electronic monitoring


Does not support the death penalty

  • Wants to abolish capital punishment at the federal level and wants to provide incentives to abolish it at the state level. He supports individuals serving life sentences without probation or parole.
  • However, in 1994, he supported capital punishment - wrote the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which created 60 new death penalty offenses


Will end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences

  • He proposes no one should be incarcerated for drug use alone. This will reduce the number of incarcerated individuals and will reduce federal spending on incarceration.
  • As Vice President, Biden championed passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which included $1 billion in funding for states to address the opioid epidemic.
  • Wants to tackle the opioid crisis by making sure people have access to high quality health care through a $125 billion federal investment.


Supports decriminalization of marijuana

  • Wants to expunge all prior cannabis use convictions
  • Senator Harris is the lead sponsor of an act that would legalize cannabis


Does not support the call to defund the police

  • Supported the creation of a new task force, placed outside of the US Department of Justice, to address systemic misconduct in police departments
  • Called for a ban on chokeholds and stopping "transferring weapons of war" to police forces, improving oversight and accountability, and creating a model use of force standard


Supports the BLM movement but criticized rioting and looting

  • Calls for eliminating racial disparities and ensuring fair sentences for everyone
  • Invest in public defenders’ offices to ensure defendants’ access to quality counsel


Will incentive states to reduce incarceration of children

  • Will invest $1 billion per year in juvenile justice reform. In return for these federal funds, states have to fulfill requirements like prohibiting children from being incarcerated in facilities with incarcerated adults
  • They will also have to address the disproportionate representation of children of color in the juvenile justice system
  • Give children a true second chance by protecting juvenile records from being public




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