The Promise - and Peril - of Biden’s Criminal Justice Reform Platform
Date:  11-17-2020

How Biden implements his goals will be a factor in their success or failure
From Prison Policy Initiative:

During his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden released a long criminal justice reform platform with many laudable goals, and he is now in a position to begin translating those goals into policy. Of course, Biden won’t be president until late January, but his hard work of preparing to govern begins now. As he prepares to take office, it’s important to be aware that the success of some of Biden’s criminal justice goals will hinge on how he implements them. It is all too easy for lawmakers to apply their energy for criminal justice reform in ways that will fail to make a dent or that actually reinforce mass incarceration. For example, Biden has proposed to:

1. Use the president’s clemency power to release people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. A president willing to use clemency in a broad, sweeping manner could significantly reduce the federal prison population — without needing to consult Congress. But if President-elect Biden spends too much time reviewing clemency applications to avoid all possible risk, it’s unlikely that he will make a big impact. To understand why, recall President Obama’s record on clemency: Obama created a bold clemency initiative, but also created unnecessary layers of administrative oversight that led to most applications being denied or “set aside.” In 2016, we wrote about the more efficient ways that a president can use the power of clemency.

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