2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) announce her plan for criminal justice reform on Tuesday.

Warren called for a repeal of the 1994 crime bill, which former Vice President Joe Biden helped write. She also called for the decriminalization of school truancy, the opposite of what Kamala Harris (D-California) has done.

Warren, like her opponents, want to decrease incarceration levels and she argues that by increasing education spending, investing in housing and other anti-poverty programs this can be done. 

“That punitive ‘tough on crime’ approach was wrong, it was a mistake, and it needs to be repealed.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,” Warren said in reference to the 1994 crime bill.

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The bill was signed by former President Bill Clinton, and is the most controversial part of Biden’s time in the Senate. The bill disproportionately affected people of color and has increased the number of people in jails and prisons.

Biden has since changed his stance some aspects of the bill like the death penalty. He has planned to decrease incarceration levels and has cited work done by President Barack Obama.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Harris have used Biden’s role in the bill’s creation as a weapon against him. Booker claimed Biden was the creator of “mass incarceration.”

Warren’s focus is not only on repealing the crime bill, but on ending the problem of young American’s leaving the education system and ending up in the criminal justice system. She wants to eliminate strict zero-tolerance policies and help students with better social services.

Warren proposes to “increase the number of school mental health personnel and provide schools with resources to train teachers and administrators in positive behavioral interventions, trauma-informed alternative discipline practices, and implicit bias to limit suspensions, expulsions, and minor-infraction arrests,” her policy paper reads.


Warren is not the only candidate to call for the decriminalization to truancy. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) called for it earlier this year. O’Rourke said that Texas has already started to repeal these laws “but the fines their parents face still loom large in a system that disproportionately targets black and brown students.”


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