Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke on Monday released a plan to reform a “racist” U.S. criminal justice system that includes a goal of reducing incarceration by at least 25,000 inmates during his first term.
Mr. O’Rourke said it’s unacceptable that America locks up “more of our own” than any other country on the planet.
“We will not only reform this racist system, but we will work to end mass incarceration by ensuring fewer Americans enter the system in the first place while prioritizing rehabilitation and successful re-entry for those who have been locked out of it — or locked up in it,” said Mr. O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas.
To achieve his goal of reducing the prison population in federal facilities, Mr. O’Rourke would streamline the clemency application process and encourage the adoption of federal and state laws that allow judges to review sentences after a certain period of time.
Mr. O’Rourke would also repeal or revise parts of a 1994 crime bill championed by 2020 rival Joseph R. Biden, including provisions that allowed prosecutors to charge minors as adults for certain crimes and that expanded the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty.
Mr. O’Rourke would also end mandatory minimum sentencing, end the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, reinstate a system of federal parole, and abolish the death penalty at the federal level.
He would legalize marijuana and expunge the records of those convicted of possession.
Mr. O’Rourke also wants to ban private, for-profit prisons, end the cash bail system, and reform the civil asset forfeiture process — priorities that other 2020 contenders have mentioned or included in their own criminal justice proposals.
He would also boost resources for public defenders and wipe out outstanding loan debt of public defenders who have served five or more years.
Mr. O’Rourke’s plan also calls for ending solitary confinement and tripling federal investment in grant funding for re-entry programs.
He would also guarantee “full enfranchisement” to 4.5 million formerly incarcerated individuals.
Mr. O’Rourke would also decriminalize truancy, institute a federal ban on corporal punishment in schools, and dedicate $500 billion toward a fund designed to eliminate funding disparities in schools based on race and income.