The Party Platforms. Criminal Justice

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This is the the fourth in my installments on the Presidential Party Platforms. I’m reviewing and comparing the Democrat and Republican Party Platforms.  

With all the violence at demonstrations, the Criminal Justice Platform couldn’t be more timely.

I think it’s worth repeating that the Republicans decided to adopt the 2016 Party Platform. On the opening day of the 2020 convention, Republicans announced that they do not have a platform, but will follow Presidents Trump’s direction. Okay, now what? Lacking specifics, I’ll follow my original plan and compare the 2016 Republican Platform with the 2020 Democratic Platform.

The Democratic Party has about 4 pages on Criminal Justice. The Republican Party has one section, less than a page entitled Ensuring Safe Neighborhoods: Criminal Justice and Prison Reform.

Just so I can keep everything straight, I put the information into a simple table, like I would for corporate goals. Pretty easy to understand; I think:  We will______________ by_____________ so that______________ happens.  The last column is the page number for your reference.

Note: After the Convention President Trump’s campaign announced a 2nd Term Agenda. The goals are many, but only the first part (We will) is addressed. How the goal will be accomplished (the “by”) is missing. Why he wants to accomplish the goal (the “so that”) is also not included. You can find the Agenda by clicking here.

So here’s the Democrats’ Protecting Communities and Building Trust by Reforming our Criminal Justice System:

Note: In the second paragraph of this section of the Platform, Democrats state: “Democrats believe we need to overhaul the criminal justice system from top to bottom.”

That’s a pretty tall order. Let’s see how they plan to do it.

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We willBySo thatPage
Build a school-to-opportunity pipeline instead of a school-to-prison pipelinePAffording sufficient funding to schools for guidance counselors, social workers, or school psychologists We prevent people from entering the criminal justice system.32
Stop punishing children as harshly as adults.Automatically sealing and expunging juvenile records;

Stop incarcerating kids, and develop community-based alternatives to prison and detention centers for youth and invest in after-school programs, community centers, and summer jobs
We provide opportunities for young people at risk.
Establish strict national standards governing the use of forceInvesting in robust training and putting in place;

Enforcing strong standards governing conflict resolution, de-escalation, and use
 of force. 
Ensure police accountability33
End the War on DrugsReorienting our public safety approach toward prevention and away from over-policing;

Making evidence-based investments in jobs, housing, education, and the arts.
Make our nation fairer, freer, and more prosperous.33
Reinvigorate community policing approaches

Build effective partnerships with social workers and mental health and substance use counselors
Limiting the sale and transfer of surplus military
weapons to domestic law enforcement agencies;

Supporting the use of body cameras
Officers on the beat better serve the neighborhoods they work in;

We respond better to public health challenges.
Address systemic misconduct by prosecutors;

Ensure that victims of federal, state, or local law enforcement abuses of power can seek justice

Invigorating pattern-or-practice investigations into police misconduct at the Department of Justice, and strengthening them through new subpoena powers and expanded oversight;

Lowering the intent standard for federally prosecuting law enforcement officials for civil rights violations;

Reining in the doctrine of qualified immunity.
We create trust between law enforcement and the public.33

Promote transparency and accountability.
Collecting and publishing data on the use of force in police;

Establishing a national registry of officers who have been found to have abused their power.
Americans have access to timely and accurate data on activities supported by their tax dollars, including policing.34 
Increase diversity among the ranks of police departmentsFunding for officer health and well-being in police departments across the country, including for personal safety equipment and mental health service.Our law enforcement agencies look more like the communities they serve.34
Support legalization of medical marijuana;

Allow states to make their own decisions about recreational use of marijuana
Decriminalizing marijuana use and rescheduling it
through executive action on the federal level.

Expunging convictions for cannabis use

Increasing use of drug courts, harm reduction interventions, and treatment diversion programs for those struggling with substance
use disorders.
We reclassify substance use disorders as diseases, not crimes.34
Ensure equal justice under the law. Eliminating the use
of cash bail;

Increasing funding for public defenders and for the Legal Services Corporation
We stop treating poverty as a crime;

No one is imprisoned merely for failing to pay fines or fees.
Allow judges to determine appropriate sentences

End sentencing disparities between crack and powdered cocaine.
Repealing federal mandatory minimums, incentivizing states to do the same, and making all sentencing reductions retroactive so judges can reconsider past cases where their hands were tied.Judges can reconsider past cases where their hands were tied.

Sentencing decisions are based on the facts of each case, including the severity of the offense and individuals’ circumstances.
??Abolishing the death penalty.??34
Appoint people to the bench who are committed to seeing justice be served, and treating each case on its merits.Nominating and confirming federal judges who have diverse backgrounds and experiences, including as public defenders, legal aid attorneys, and civil rights lawyers.Our courts should reflect our country.34
Commute sentences of people serving unjust sentences;Establishing an independent clemency board to ensure an appropriate, effective process for using clemency.We address systemic racism and other priorities.

End inappropriate use of clemency.
Ending the use of private prisons and private detention centers;

Private profit does not motivate vital public services. 35
Pursue a holistic approach
to rehabilitation
Ending practices like solitary confinement for adults and juveniles;

Banning the use of restraints on pregnant federal inmates.

Affording prisoners access to vital medical care and preventing unnecessarily exposed to disease;

Increasing support for programs that provide educational opportunities,
including pursuing college degrees, for those in the criminal justice system, both in prison and upon release.
Imprisoned people are treated humanely.35
Deepen our commitment to helping those who have
served their time re-enter society, earn a good living, and participate in our democracy as the full
citizens they are.
Ensuring access to transitional housing for returning citizens;

Expanding access to mental health and substance use treatment;

Stopping reincarceration of people for technical violations of probation or parole.

Making it easier for returning citizens to access
work opportunities through the Job Corps. 

Opening access to public services, including Pell Grants and nutrition assistance.

Returning citizens their right to vote.
Criminals are redeemed.35

Whew! That was a lot of work.  Next up….

The Republicans’ plan for Ensuring Safe Neighborhoods: Criminal Justice Reform

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Photo by Felipe Vallin on
We willBySo thatPage number
Reform the Criminal Justice and Prison system.Making clear in words and actions that every human life matters;  
Requiring the President to adhere to the rule of law.
The public’s trust in law enforcement and civil order is restored.39
Ensure safe neighborhoods.Urging caution in the creation of new “crimes”;  

Creating a bipartisan presidential commission to purge the Code and the body of regulations of old “crimes;”

Urging Congress to codify the Common Law’s Rule of Lenity.
Career civil servants and political appointees cannot criminalize behavior through regulations.  

We have fewer crimes.
Ensure safe neighborhoods.Emphasizing restorative justice;  

Encouraging states to offer opportunities for literacy and vocational education.
We make the victims of crime whole and put the offenders on the right path.39
Ensure safe neighborhoods.Condemning the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capitol punishment in their states;

Enacting mandatory prison time for all assaults involving serious injury to law enforcement officers;

Targeting particular categories of crime, such as nonviolent offenders and persons with drug, alcohol, or mental health issues,  for any modification of mandatory sentences.
The federal courts are a model for the rest of the country in protecting the rights of victims and their families. 40
Ensure safe neighborhoods.Encouraging states to fight internet pornography and its harmful effects;
Urging energetic prosecution of child pornography, which is closely linked to human tafficking.
The internet is a not a safe haven for predators.40
Combat Drug AbuseEnsuring no physician is penalized for limiting opioid prescriptions;  

Passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.*
We address the opioid epidemic.40
* Note: The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was signed into law by President Obama July 22, 2016.


There’s one nice thing about the Republican Party adopting the 2016 platform. We can also check to see what progress has been made in the past almost 4 years. If you want to do that in a concrete way, please visit and use the search bar.

I gotta say, the two parties have widely different views about the criminal justice system.

It’s not easy to compare the two Platforms. They don’t use the same style or organization.  But, I’m determined to give it my best shot.

What do you think?  Was this enlightening?

Next up: The Environment

If you missed my prior Party Plank reviews, here are the links:

Party Platform 2020: The economy

Party Platform 2020: The pandemic

Party Platform 2020: Healthcare