Bernie Sanders’s Justice and Safety for All plan is a big deal. With no fewer than 127 bullet points, it’s the most comprehensive criminal justice plan released by any Democratic presidential candidate. As a random example, Sanders’s plan doesn’t just affirm the right to counsel for people without the means to pay — it proposes seven reforms to guarantee that right in practice. That granularity is characteristic of the whole document.
The plan’s heft and substance should put to rest the rumor that Sanders talks pretty but is thin on details. Moreover, the plan has implications that extend far beyond his own campaign.
For years, civil rights and criminal justice reform activists and organizations have been looking beyond procedural reforms. Increasingly, they’ve been training their sights on substantive change outside the criminal justice sphere itself, seeking community investment solutions that can improve living standards, improve safety, and overtime displace police and prisons.
Meanwhile, Sanders has been searching for a way to apply his democratic socialist ideas to criminal justice issues. The Justice and Safety for All plan represents the confluence of these currents: a democratic socialist looking to apply his political vision to criminal justice meets a criminal justice reform movement hungry for radical social interventions.
“My feeling had always been that the idea of producing public safety through community investment instead of policing was completely compatible with a democratic socialist agenda,” says Alex Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the author of The End of Policing. Vitale, who is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), was tapped to assist the Sanders campaign in drafting its criminal justice plan. […]