Dismantling Trump’s Approach to Criminal Justice

On November 3rd, the American public elected Joe Biden to become the 46th president of the U.S. Presently, on January 5th, voters in Georgia are determining which party holds the majority in the Senate, thereby influencing the potential for progressive legislation over the next two years. Though Biden has won the presidential election, the pushback and protest of some Republicans is testament to the great deal of work Biden must undertake to reconnect the nation. For example, despite the deep fractures in the current political climate, the Biden administration will have to execute its pandemic strategy on a national scale. Dan Balz, The Washington Post chief correspondent for national politics, the presidency, and Congress, also cites the urgent need for Biden’s policies on the economy, the immigration system, racial injustice, and climate change.Though Biden’s victory may feel like a triumph for Democrats, the Biden administration will need to work quickly to demonstrate to all Americans the crucial benefits of these policies—a challenge made greater by the risk that he may not receive the necessary congressional support to enact them. 

Undoing the Trump administration’s approach to criminal justice will be one urgent task among many, but acting quickly to dismantle Trump-era policies, which have had particularly devastating impacts on prison populations, will be necessary to achieve a more racially equitable system. Biden has pledged to end mandatory minimum sentences, to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals, and to offer funds for more mental health and substance abuse services in prisons.These promises appeal to progressive voters, but without focused action, the Biden administration may unwittingly continue Trump’s policies on criminal justice. Even in a Biden administration, investigations of racism in police departments might remain far too low and the federal Justice Department’s denial of systemic racial bias in police departments could persist. Such neglect of police racial bias has a measurable impact on racial inequity in the United States. Therefore, it is even more imperative that Biden urgently follow through on his campaign promise to expand “pattern or practice investigations” of police violence, while continuing to push for significant investment in Community Oriented Policing Services. For Biden to overturn the actions of the Trump administration, the president-elect will also need to mitigate the harms of racialized policing, mass incarceration, and federal executions by funding more transitional housing, increasing the number of mental health professionals in schools, and ending incarceration “for drug use alone.” These major criminal justice policy changes necessitate immediate action and a Congress focused on the good of all Americans. Even in a Biden administration, inaction could result in the continuation of destructive precedents.

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