Alabama Digital News

Biden’s agenda is stuck. It doesn’t have to be that way with criminal justice reform

President Biden has long been tough on crime. In a 1993 speech on the Senate floor, for example, he bragged that “every major crime bill since 1976 that’s come out of this Congress, every minor crime bill, has had the name of the Democratic senator from the state of Delaware: Joe Biden.”

While campaigning for president in 2020, however, Biden promised sweeping changes to America’s criminal justice system. Biden was unambiguously committed to reform, promising to “strengthen America’s commitment to justice and reform our criminal justice system.”

This was welcome news. America has the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world, spending roughly $182 billion annually to lock up over 2 million people. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of these Americans serve multiyear sentences for nonviolent offenses. And far too many formerly incarcerated people remain handicapped by the myriad harmful effects of serving time — including the lasting trauma and stigma of imprisonment and the fundamental challenges of reintegrating into a society that doesn’t stand still.

Yet, since Biden’s inauguration, criminal justice reform has taken a backseat to more prominent initiatives, such as the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the now seemingly dead Build Back Better proposal.

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