On March 20th, Biden signed into law a bill passed by Congress, including most Republicans and some Democrats, that overturned a new Washington, D.C. ordinance reforming D.C.’s criminal justice system. The law – which was passed by the majority of D.C. city council – would have removed minimum sentencing requirements and given the right to trial by jury for people accused of misdemeanors, among other things. Washington is the only city in the United States where the federal government can legally interfere with local law-making this way.
Biden’s overruling of D.C.’s bill is completely undemocratic and will only reinforce mass incarceration, which targets poor Black and Brown people especially. But is this any surprise from Biden? He has a long history of supporting mass incarceration. In 1994, he sponsored the passage of the 1994 Crime Bill, which gave states substantial incentives to increase funding for prisons and over-incarceration of poor communities of color. It was only after the mass protests in 2020 against racism and police murders of Black people that Biden started to sing a different song about police and prisons. But his actions speak louder than words – and he clearly is not doing much to overturn that legacy of brutal violence and over-policing.
When it comes to the criminal justice system, both parties continue the repression and detention of the poor and people of color.