The Democrats’ Georgia Senate victories that put the party in control of the U.S. Senate could dramatically shift the political landscape in favor of criminal justice reform, says Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman in his Sentencing Law and Policy blog. A 50-50 Senate makes it more likely that the Justice Department will be more willing to take more progressive positions on an array of criminal justice reform issues, Berman says.
The agenda items that have been suggested by various reform groups (including the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force) would seem to be much more politically viable as a result of the Georgia outcomes, Berman wrote. Among the reform issues identified last summer by the group assembled by President-elect Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders: Withdrawing the Trump Administration’s guidance advising prosecutors to pursue the harshest penalties possible, supporting state “progressive” prosecutors through funding and technical support, decriminalizing marijuana use and legalizing marijuana for medical purposes at the federal level, supporting increased use of drug courts and treatment diversion programs instead of incarceration for drug defendants, abolishing the federal death penalty, repealing federal mandatory minimum sentences, establishing an independent clemency board, asking the U.S. Sentencing Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of existing sentencing guidelines and statutory sentencing ranges, and removing barriers to prisoner reentry into society.