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Will Donald Trump or Joe Biden be better for criminal justice? Show more Show less
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The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. As riots have blazed across the country in response to police brutality, the ways presidential candidates approach criminal justice are increasingly coming under scrutiny. Will Donald Trump or Joe Biden be better for criminal justice?

Donald Trump will be better for criminal justice Show more Show less

Trump promises to restore law and order, and will take a tough approach on criminality. Biden has a poor track record on criminal justice, and is too weak on left-wing lawlessness.
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Donald Trump signed the First Step Act

This act reformed some sentencing laws, including mandatory-minimum sentences, and gave judges more discretion over low-level drug offences. Trump is responsible for this piece of criminal justice legislation that will benefit Americans.

The Argument

In 2018, Trump signed the First Step Act into law, a bipartisan piece of criminal justice reform. The Act shortened mandatory minimum sentences for some offences, including narrowing the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing.[1] It also allowed prisoners to earn time off their sentence through good conduct, as well as allowing the relocation of prisoners closer to home and introduced other measures which ease re-entry to society.[2] The Act allowed judges to exercise greater discretion over sentencing for some offences and improved condition for pregnant prisoners.[1] The Act led to the release of over 3,000 prisoners in July 2019 for good conduct and 3,000 prisoners had their sentences shortened.[3] The Act was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats and is seen as a success from across the political spectrum.

Counter arguments

The First Step Act was a criminal justice reform welcomed from all sides of the political spectrum, but it is wrong to give Trump the credit for it. The Act was largely a product of Republican and Democratic members of Congress, building on efforts to introduce criminal justice reform that began under Obama's presidency.[4] There is also very little other evidence from Trump's track record that he supports the measures of the First Step Act - his tough on crime stance has often involved calls for harsher sentencing and the return of the death penalty for federal inmates.[5] In 2016, he criticised Obama for releasing prisoners "by the thousands", which is exactly what the Act has done under his administration.



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This page was last edited on Thursday, 8 Oct 2020 at 08:35 UTC

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