This summary is the second in a series of deep dives into the Biden/Sanders Unity Platform. The policies advocated in this 110-page document certainly support the contention of MoveOn that Biden offers the most progressive policy agenda in history.
Criminal justice task force
My eye has finally stopped twitching after taking a deep dive into the platform for climate change. So now I will tackle the one for criminal justice so you don’t have to. The Unity Task Force team members on this topic are:
- Chiraag Bains, Director of Legal Strategies at Demos and Fellow at the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans
- Co-chair Rep. Bobby Scott – Virginia District 3
- Co-chair TN State Sen. Raumesh Akbari
- SC State Rep. Justin Bamberg
- Vanita Gupta – President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights
- Former Attorney General Eric Holder – AKA Barack Obama’s Wingman
- Symone Sanders – Activist and Senior Advisor to the Biden Campaign
- Stacey Walker – Iowa Campaign Director for Bernie Sanders
“Reimagining” Criminal Justice
In the summary, found on pages 7-10 on the Unity Platform, the team talks about mass incarceration as if the First Step Act never happened. Of course, they also note racial disparities in imprisonment and imply this is a function of racism. In the current environment, police brutality earned an entire paragraph:
Democrats believe we need to overhaul the criminal justice system from top to bottom. Police brutality is a stain on the soul of our nation. It is unacceptable that millions of people in our country have good reason to fear they may lose their lives in a routine traffic stop, or while standing on a street corner, or while playing with a toy in a public park. It is unacceptable that Black parents must have “the talk” with their children, to try to protect them from the very police officers who are supposed to be sworn to protect and serve them. It is unacceptable that more than 1,000 people, a quarter of them Black, are killed by police every year. Democrats also recognize that all too often, systematic cuts to public services have left police officers on the front lines of responding to social challenges for which they have not been trained, from homelessness to mental health crises to the opioid epidemic. We can and must do better for our communities.
So, a fundamental transformation in criminal justice is coming if the top-to-bottom overhaul is to be believed. “Reimagining” criminal justice to root out systemic racism is also a primary goal.
To begin to address what the Task Force sees as systemic racism, the team recommends reissuing the Obama-era DOE guidelines that called for racially equitable discipline. This program monitored how many students are disciplined by race and explained differences as racial disparities. Differences in behavior were not accounted for.
The Rand Corporation studied these policies, often referred to as restorative justice. These studies demonstrated restorative justice programs harmed academic performance in predominantly black schools. They widened the academic achievement gap in the schools studied.
Overall, the negative impact on academic outcomes was not large. The average student in the study district scored at the 37th percentile of the state distribution; restorative practices would reduce this to the 35th percentile. However, the negative impact was almost completely experienced by students in schools with predominantly African-American students, increasing the district’s racial achievement gap from 15 to 18 percentile points.
These policies also impact school safety and leave teachers powerless to address bad behavior. It was a similar program that kept the school shooter in Parkland, Florida, out of the juvenile system. They essentially decriminalize criminal behavior in the name of equity.