Biden, Scrutinized for Crime Bill, Unveils Plan to Reduce Mass Incarceration

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His campaign also calls for the investment of $1 billion a year in juvenile justice reform, as well as more stringent protections of juvenile records and expanded funding for programs and activities for when children are not in school.

And the proposal makes overtures to law enforcement as well: “Black mothers and fathers should feel confident that their children are safe walking the streets of America,” the proposal reads. “And, when a police officer pins on that shield and walks out the door, the officer’s family should know they’ll come home at the end of the day.”

While the issue of criminal justice has been a thorny one for Mr. Biden, it has also been challenging for others in the presidential field, from Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., whose city was engulfed in a crisis over a fatal police shooting of a black man, to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who as a congressman in 1994 voted for the crime bill.

In some areas, Mr. Biden is not as bold as many of his rivals. While he supports decriminalizing marijuana and expunging prior cannabis use convictions, he continues to stop short of supporting legalizing marijuana across the board in contrast to a number of his opponents. He leaves the issue of legalizing marijuana for recreational use to the states and supports reclassifying “cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts,” his proposal said.

“This plan lacks imagination,” said Michael Collins, director of national affairs at the organization Drug Policy Action, who also objected to Mr. Biden’s support for drug courts for what he described as their reliance on the current criminal justice system. “The marijuana reform part of it is a clear example of that.”

Ms. Harris, a prosecutor by training who now supports the legalization of marijuana, is expected to introduce legislation in the Senate on Tuesday that would decriminalize marijuana on the federal level and calls for re-sentencing for and expungement of marijuana-related convictions. It is a comprehensive measure that also aims to help marginalized communities participate in the growing cannabis industry through efforts including grants.

Earlier this year, Mr. Booker proposed his own bill that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana. That was co-sponsored by nearly all of the other Democratic senators who are running for president: Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Ms. Harris.

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