January 26, 2021

Volume XI, Number 26

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January 25, 2021

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Police Reform and Gun Control

Criminal Justice Reform could be a first-term priority in a Biden Administration. President-Elect Biden’s overwhelming political support from the African American community, his stated support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the galvanized support for social justice across much of America would put this issue in the top tier of his legislative agenda. The overarching philosophy will focus on prevention, redemption, and rehabilitation – less on punishment.

A possible model for Biden’s efforts is the bi-partisan “Safe Justice Act,” which covers front-end sentencing policy through backend release policies and posits that lengthy sentences are a high-cost, low-return approach to public safety. In addition to possible legislative initiatives outlined below, federal funds will be made available to incentivize state and local law enforcement programs to improve policing at the street level, including a ban on chokeholds and restrictions on “no knock” warrants. Senate Republicans will resist enacting such broad proposals, and will likely promote alternatives such as the “Justice Act” introduced in June by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).

Methods for structurally reducing mass incarceration include sentencing reform, decriminalizing marijuana (with automatic expungement of records) and emphasizing diversion/treatment for drug users, thereby reducing spending on prisons, while making significant funds available for prevention programs.

  • A Biden Administration may be hostile to the private prison industry (prisons, phones, commercial bail, private diversion programs, immigration detention facilities).

  • Biden could incorporate education initiatives such as universal Pre-K, increased Title I funding for low-income school districts, and free community college under the umbrella of a major crime prevention and social justice package.

  • Appropriations for substantially increased mental health services, social service workers, substance abuse disorder treatment, public defenders, community policing, and law enforcement data collection will be strongly supported in the new administration.

  • A return to the Obama-era Justice Department approach of using consent decrees with state and local authorities to address systemic misconduct by law enforcement and to restore public trust.

  • On guns, Biden may be aggressive on background checks, banning assault/high capacity weapons, relinquishment of firearms by prohibited individuals, and supporting extreme risk “red flag” laws.

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©2020 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume X, Number 321
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Greenberg Traurig’s Government Law & Policy Practice combines the capabilities of our Federal Practice in Washington D.C. with our state and local practices across the country. Our national team of governmental affairs professionals spans major political and commercial capitals throughout the United States, including: Albany, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York City, Sacramento, Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

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