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Elizabeth Warren Wants to Repeal the Joe Biden-Authored 1994 Crime Bill

August 20, 2019, 3:11 PM UTC

Elizabeth Warren is proposing to repeal the 1994 crime bill in an implicit shot at Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden, who wrote the law, as part of a broad new criminal justice policy plan she released Tuesday.

“That punitive ‘tough on crime’ approach was wrong, it was a mistake, and it needs to be repealed. There are some sections of law, like those relating to domestic violence, that should be retained — but the bulk of the law must go,” she wrote on a post, saying the law “exacerbated incarceration rates” with harsh punishment for minor offenses.

Kamala Harris has made a similar point about the 1994 law, passed at a time of a national crime wave.

Warren’s new plan includes a series of policies that reflect the wishes of progressive activists who say the criminal justice system is racist and want to ease penalties for relatively minor infractions. She proposed to decriminalize marijuana, end cash bail, restrict pre-trial fees and the use of federal civil forfeiture, put a ceiling on municipal revenues from the criminal justice system, and scrap fees on necessary services like phone calls and bank transfers.

“It’s not equal justice when a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail, while a bank executive who launders money for a drug cartel can get a bonus. It’s long past time for us to reform our system,” she said.

The Massachusetts senator has been at second place in numerous recent polls but continues to struggle with black voters, who make up one-fifth of the Democratic electorate and has been disproportionately targeted by criminal justice excesses. A recent Economist/YouGov poll found Warren just 1 point behind Biden with Democrats overall, but among black voters she had just 7% — behind Biden’s 38%, Bernie Sanders’ 15% and Harris’s 12%.

Warren’s new plan called for checks on prosecutorial power with enhanced access to public defense counsel, creating an integrity unit to “hold accountable prosecutors who abuse their power,” and raising the legal standard for dismissing claims of wrongful convictions.

Harris has been accused by critics of fighting to uphold convictions as a California prosecutor even when they were wrongfully secured. Warren’s plan doesn’t name Harris but may revive the conversation about her fellow senator’s record.

The Warren plan calls for “accountability for the wealthy and the well-connected” by slapping a criminal negligence standard for executives of companies that make at least $1 billion per year in revenue and found guilty of causing “severe harm to American families.”

Other aspects of Warren’s proposal would change police practices by imposing a federal standard for using force, limiting qualified immunity for police, eliminating “stop and frisk,” demilitarizing local law enforcement, and expanding the use of body cameras.

She also promised to seek diversity in judicial appointments in contrast to President Donald Trump’s disproportionately white and male set of judges.

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