Bernie Sanders, who was criticized by liberals in 2016 for not focusing on racial injustice, proposed a plan aimed at slashing the U.S. prison population in half and ridding the criminal justice system of “institutional racism and corporate profiteering,” reports Politico. The ambitious plan seeks to overhaul prisons, police departments, courts, drug laws and treatment of mentally ill people with a full-throated progressive agenda. Sanders’ left-wing allies argue that he has “evolved” on the issue of criminal justice. Sanders calls for banning cash bail, solitary confinement and civil asset forfeiture. It also looks to legalize marijuana and abolish the death penalty.
The Vermont senator would legalize “safe injection sites” where people can use illegal drugs under medical supervision, a controversial practice that has been shown in several studies to curb overdose deaths. Sanders’ proposal promises that any time a police officer kills a civilian, his Attorney General will conduct an investigation. He would also establish a “Prisoner Bill of Rights,” create a “civilian corps of unarmed first responders” to deal with mental health emergencies, and boost funding for public defenders. The proposal comes as Sanders makes a two-day swing through South Carolina, the first state where African-Americans cast a majority of votes in the primary. Former Vice President Joe Biden has dominated the Southern state in recent surveys. “If we stand together, we can eliminate private prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people up,” Sanders says. “If we stand together, we can end the disastrous War on Drugs. If we stand together, we can end cash bail. No more keeping people in jail because they’re too poor. If we stand together, we can enact real police department reform and prosecute police brutality.”