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  • United States Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will completely change the criminal justice system.

    United States Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will completely change the criminal justice system. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 August 2019

His proposals include cutting the prison population in half, end mandatory minimum sentencing, legalizing marijuana, and banning private for-profit prisons.

The United States Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders Sunday talked about his plans to "reform every aspect of America's dysfunctional criminal justice system". 

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His proposals include cutting the prison population in half, end mandatory minimum sentencing, legalizing marijuana, and banning private for-profit prisons.

Sanders said the current system is biased against people of color, addicts, and mentally ill. 

“We have a system that imprisons and destroys the lives of millions of people,” Sanders told the Associated Press in an interview. “It’s racist in disproportionately affecting the African American and Latino communities, and it’s a system that needs fundamental change.”

The Senator from Vermont revealed his plans during a campaign in South Carolina over the weekend. 

He said that when elected, he would dissolve the mandatory minimum sentencing and bring back a federal parole system, end the “three strikes law,” expand alternative sentencing like community supervision, and halfway houses. All these measures would be taken to reduce the prison population. 

“A very significant number of people who are behind bars today are dealing with one form or another of illness,” Sanders said. “These should be treated as health issues, not from a criminal perspective.”

Almost two million people with mental illness are booked in prison according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

Regarding prisons, he would ban “for-profit prison profiteering,” i.e., private prisons, make prison calls free. He also plans to cancel cash-bail system that does not allow lower class people to get out of prison despite not being convicted of any crime as they cannot afford the bail. 

“Can you believe that, in the year 2019, 400,000 people are in jail awaiting a trial because they are poor?” Sanders said. “That is a moral outrage, it is a legal outrage.”

Sanders will introduce a "Prisoner Bill of Rights" for imprisoned people so that they can earn a living wage and receive educational training as well as the right to vote. 

He would legalize marijuana and end all previous marijuana-related conviction. The Senator is also against Capital Punishment. 

“When we talk about violence in society and trying to lower the levels of violence, it is not appropriate that the state itself is part of capital punishment,” Sanders said.

Economically, his plans will save public money as “Locking people up is very, very expensive.”

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