2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker (D-NJ) has announced a plan to grant clemency to thousands of people serving time for federal drug convictions.
Last Thursday, Booker released his 'Restoring Justice' plan, which would offer clemency to more than 17,000 individuals who are currently doing time for nonviolent drug convictions. Booker pledged to implement the plan immediately upon taking office via an executive order as a means to address the huge disparities in drug policing.
"The War on Drugs has been a war on people, tearing families apart, ruining lives, and disproportionately affecting people of color and low-income individuals — all without making us safer," Booker said of his plan. "Granting clemency won't repair all the damage that has been done by the War on Drugs and our broken criminal justice system, but it will help our country confront this injustice and begin to heal."
Under Booker's plan, the Bureau of Prisons, the Defender Services Division of the US Courts and the US Sentencing Commission would all be tasked with identifying incarcerated individuals who would be eligible for clemency.
Inmates serving three different kinds of drug offenses would be eligible for clemency under Booker's plan. First, everyone doing time for nonviolent, marijuana-related offenses would be granted clemency. This is the biggest category and will comprise of nearly half of the eligible people.
Second, anyone who is facing a lengthened sentence for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine offenses would be eligible. Current federal law treats possession of crack cocaine as a far more severe crime than possession of powder cocaine, which means that poor people and people of color often face harsher sentences for similar drug crimes. However, Booker's plan "would eliminate entirely the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences retroactively."
The final group of eligible inmates would cover inmates whose sentences have been lengthened due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which require judges to impose strict sentences for certain drug-related offenses.
Those who receive clemency will also receive access to job training, various social services and criminal record expungement.
That plan comes as a companion of sorts to Booker's social justice-centric cannabis legalization bill, The Marijuana Justice Act. The bill would end federal cannabis prohibition, expunge past criminal records and invest cannabis tax revenues back into the communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.
h/t Marijuana Moment