Biden: 'Nobody Should Be in Jail for a Nonviolent Crime'; Booker Wants 17,000 Released

By Susan Jones | September 13, 2019 | 7:16am EDT
Democrat presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the third Democratic primary debate hosted by ABC News/Univision at Texas Southern University in Houston on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Robyn BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

( - Former Vice President Joe Biden said too many people are in jail who "shouldn't be in jail."

"We should be talking about rehabilitation," Biden told the Democrat debate in Houston hosted by ABC/Univision.

Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime. As — when we were in the White House, we released 36,000 people from the federal prison system. Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem. They should be going directly to a rehabilitation. We build more rehabilitation centers, not prisons.

We — I'm the guy that put in the drug courts to divert people from the criminal justice system. And so we have to change the whole way we look at this.

When we put people in prison, we have to equip them that when they get out — nobody who got in prison for marijuana, for example, immediately upon being released — they shouldn't be in there; that should be a misdemeanor. They should be out and their record should be expunged. Every single right should be returned.

When you finish your term in prison, you should be able not only to vote but have access to Pell grants, have access to be able to get housing, have access to be able to move along the way.

Sen. Kamala Harris would shut down for-profit prisons and "de-incarcerate women and children."

And Sen. Cory Booker said the criminal justice system is "savagely broken." He urged clemency for 17,000 prisoners who are "unjustly incarcerated."

"There’s no difference in America between blacks, whites and Latinos for using drugs or dealing drugs. But if you are African-American, you are almost four times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated, destroying your lives," Booker said.

"And so much of this comes down to privilege. We have a criminal justice system that Brian Stephenson says treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent."

Booker said 17,000 people are "unjustly incarcerated in America, and all of us should come forward and say, when we are president of the United States; when I am president of the United States, we will release them.

And let me be specific. I joined together and led in the United States Senate the only major bipartisan bill to pass under this president, for criminal justice reform, that has already led to thousands of people coming out of jail.

If 87 members of the United States Senate says that these sentences are way too long, and we changed it, but we didn't make it retroactive, we could literally point to the people that are in jail unjustly right now.

Everyone on this stage should say that we are going to give clemency to these 17,000 people.


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