• Raya

The battle of the "Criminal Justice Reformists"-Trump vs. Biden

Before diving into the differences in the Donald Trump and Joe Biden's criminal justice reform ideologies, it is important to note that criminal justice reform policies will remain ineffective without the removal of bias and discrimination. Criminal justice officials such as judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, correction officers, police officers, probation and parole officers need to be diversified in race and background. Here are some quick facts from the NAACP about incarceration disparities by race as well as the racial breakdown of the population in the United States according to the 2019 census. Notice that African Americans make up almost 40% of the percent of incarcerated individuals, while only making up 13.5% of the total population in the US.

Race Percent in the population Percentage incarcerated

Asian 5.9% 1.5%

African American 13.5% 37.9%

Native American 1.3% 2.3%

White 76.5% 58.3%

Mass Incarceration

  • Under his legislation money is being cut from federal prisons

  • 1st Step Act- expanded judges discretion to ignore mandatory minimums in SOME cases. My question here is Some cases need to be clearly defined because this leaves room for discrimination and bias.

  • Expanded chances for elderly and terminally ill inmates to get their sentences reduced

  • Allows for low risk elderly to be transferred to home confinement instead of prison

Prison Conditions

  • An open advocate for the death penalty who is willing to fight in federal court to keep the death penalty alive in federal cases

  • Donald Trump is not opposed to solitary confinement and he supports juveniles being placed in solitary confinement. Placing adult inmates in solitary confinement leads to the deterioration of their mental state, while placing juveniles in it can stunt their development.

  • The first step act calls for no restraints for pregnant women during their term, labor and postpartum. It also requires the federal bureau of prisons to keep track of the outcomes and number of pregnant women in prison.

Drug Policies

  • Cocaine: Donald Trump believes that drug dealers should face the death penalty, however, his first step act decreased the disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

  • Heroin: Provided funding (over 1.8 billion) for treatment and data collection

  • Marijuana: Believes that recreational use should be up to the states to decide

Offenders reentering society

  • Assigned the U.S Probation Office and the Department of Labor to help incarcerated people get jobs. It is extremely hard for offenders to get jobs upon release due to the stigma that they carry once they check the box signaling that they have a criminal history.Offenders carry a stigma placed on them by society that they can not be rehabilitated and reenter society a changed person. It is very likely that an offender may not be capable of completing certain jobs once released due to the fact that prison didn't equip them with skills to be a functioning member of society, not the fact that they committed crimes in the past.

  • Enacted the Ready to Work Initiative


  • Cash bail shouldn't be abolished as its abolishment allegedly leads to "hard and bad" criminals being released into society

  • Donald Trump supports private prisons mainly due to his immigration ideologies. Private prisons and sanctions are used as immigration detention centers


  • Believes that there should be be more cops out policing. The issue with the increase in cops is that it creates the question of whether the increase will cause more harm than it will do good.

Mass Incarceration

  • Joe Biden has a history of being a supporter of Get Tough Laws that were passed in the 1980's and 1990's.

  • Will work with Congress to abolish federal mandatory minimum sentences and will work with states to follow suit.

  • Will create a grant to assist states in reducing incarceration rates.

  • Will freely use his clemency ability to free individuals who were convicted of non-violent crimes.

  • Will decriminalize being incarcerated for not paying fines and fees.

Prison Conditions

  • Historically was in support of the death penalty, however, during his recent campaign he has stated that he wants to work with congress to abolish the use of the death penalty.

  • Believes that solitary confinement should only be used in certain cases such as when an inmate needs protection. I believe that is important to implement a cap on the amount of time that an inmate can stay in solitary confinement even if it is for their own protection, because being locked away in solitary confinement will have detrimental effects.

  • Believes that inmates should ALL have the opportunity to receive their GED while incarcerated and supports the allocation of pell grants to inmates.

  • Will fight to ensure that the environment of prisons are safe and healthy. Biden also proposes that he will create grants based on the quality of care that pregnant women are receiving while incarcerated.

Drug Policy

  • Marijuana: Is now in support of legalizing marijuana, He claims he will work to decriminalize marijuana for medical use and expunge prior convictions for its use.

  • Heroin: Wants to invest $75 billion dollars in grants for states to provide treatment and recovery.Biden also wants to train first responders to give mental health and trauma services. I do agree that first responders can benefit from this training, however I am curious when they will have time to implement their training during the commission of them doing their job. It is equally as beneficial to make sure that they are equipped with the necessary medical tools to treat their patients.

  • Cocaine: Joe Biden proclaims that he will work to end the disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

  • Advocates that drug users shouldn't be incarcerated but instead should be sent ot drug courts and rehabilitation centers.

Offenders reentering society

  • Will work with companies to eliminate questions about criminal history on applications.

  • Will work to eliminate blocks in offenders receiving public assistance and provide incentives for states to restore voting rights to offenders who were convicted of felonies and have completed their sentences.


  • Will work to end cash bail and reform the pretrial process to remove discrimination and bias.

  • Abolish the use of private prisons.

  • Eliminate both state and local profits being made off of incarceration which includes reducing the amounts that private companies are charing for inmate phone calls to their loved ones.


  • Joe Biden pledges to increase the amount of cops by investing $300 million in the COPS program and enforcing the requirement that police departments diversify the racial makeup of police officers to match the neighborhoods they are patrolling. This is a good proposal, however, training police officers to practice non biased patrolling and enforcing of the law as well as holding them accountable when they abuse their power needs to be part of the solution. The solution isn't just assigning minority police officers to poor neighborhoods and thinking that solves the issue.Another issue is that when police chiefs and judges are appointed rather than selected based off of their merit and qualifications their views reflect those of the political party that selected them. Meaning the racial discrimination and injustices will continue as they are flowing from the bottom of the pyramid to the bottom.

  • Joe Biden is advocating for more data to be collected in order to make more effective and useful policies. The use of evidence-based practices/ polices are crucial as they allow policy makers to analyze data and decide which policies are ineffective and essentially create new ones.

  • Biden also stated that he will enact policies to reduce the amount of misconduct in the criminal justice system by prioritizing the prosecution of those who commit hate crimes and investigating law enforcement and prosecutors who engage in misconduct. This is important because as of now there is no punishment being enacted on law enforcement or anyone really who commits hate crimes against people of color even when there is an immense amount of evidence showing their guilt.

*In reading over both future presidential candidates proposals for Criminal Justice Reform that whichever side you support may advocate for change, however, actually igniting change is different. The criminal justice system in the United States is corrupt and broken, it is not enough for politicians to attempt to win votes by speaking empty promises of reform. We must follow politicians closely and hold them to their word. The criminal justice system will not be reformed in a short amount of time as there are many components that need reforming that require funds and resources, but this doesn't mean that we should stop fighting for change and equality.*

Stay Updated with new content
  • Black Instagram Icon