Buttigieg releases plan to reform criminal justice system

Buttigieg releases plan to reform criminal justice system
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White House hopeful Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul Buttigieg2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE Saturday unveiled a multi-pronged plan to reform the criminal justice system as the Democratic Party base rails against inequities in incarceration and policing.

The plan from the South Bend, Ind. mayor will work to reduce incarceration, empower defenders, end “inhumane” prison conditions, bolster reintegration efforts and reform policing.

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“Rebalancing our criminal system and refocusing resources on areas like public health, economic opportunity, and alternatives to incarceration will dramatically reduce mass incarceration and racial disparities in the system," Buttigieg said in the plan. "At the same time, it will keep communities safer and save money."

“It is past time to transform the criminal legal system to one that truly promotes justice, and benefits all of us," he added.

Buttigieg promises he would eliminate incarceration for drug possession, legalize marijuana and expunge past weed convictions, and reduce sentences for other drug offenses.

He’d also work to establish an independent clemency commission outside of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to increase commutations, and eliminate mandatory minimum sentences to reduce incarceration. Buttigieg also vows to support legislation that would provide equal resources for federal defenders and prosecutors, and explore programs to incentivize states to do the same.

To help those in prison and ex-convicts, Buttigieg would ensure that all correctional and detention facilities provide medically-necessary treatment, institute job training opportunities for those incarcerated, make it more difficult to be sent back to prison for small violations of release terms, and boost the availability of tax credits and bond insurance for employers who hire people with criminal convictions. 

To address concerns of police brutality, Buttigieg’s plan would work to raise the legal standard under which officers are authorized to use lethal force, create a federal database to document use of force and track officers who are fired from their duties, and direct the DOJ to investigate law enforcement agencies that have a pattern or practice of violating civil rights and the Constitution.

The plan comes as the Democratic Party’s base shows increased skepticism of federal law enforcement and concerns over racial inequities in the criminal justice system. Several other 2020 candidates have introduced their own plans to reform the country's criminal justice laws.

Buttigieg in particular has been dogged by questions regarding his plan on criminal justice reform amid ongoing scrutiny over a police-involved shooting of a black man in South Bend.