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How Will Voters Judge Biden's Criminal Justice Record Next Year?

President Biden is asking for four more years in office “to finish the job.” Whether voters grant him that wish in 2024 will depend heavily on how well they think he did in keeping his promises from 2020. Politico reviewed some of candidate Biden’s biggest pledges — and evaluated how well President Biden followed through.


On criminal justice issues, when it came to guns, Biden said, "No one needs an AR-15. … I promise you, I will get these weapons of war off the street again and out of our communities.”

Biden oversaw passage of the most comprehensive gun safety legislation in nearly three decades. Yet It fell well short of taking the kinds of decisive actions that he pledged to deliver on the campaign trail.

The gun safety law passed in June 2022 made only limited improvements to background checks and did nothing to restrict access to assault weapons. Despite Biden’s promise to ban those weapons in the aftermath of several mass shootings over the last year, he’s made no progress toward convincing Congress to act.

The White House has issued a range of executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence, but Biden admitted he’s effectively powerless on the issue, saying he’s “gone the full extent of my executive authority to do, on my own, anything about guns.”


On immigration, Biden pledged that, “We’re going to restore our moral standing in the world and our historic role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers, and those fleeing violence and persecution.”

In an approach that’s dismayed Democrats and immigration advocates, Biden maintained the strict Trump-era border policy known as Title 42 that has allowed the government quickly to expel migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The administration now plans to lift Title 42 next month, though there are few signs that Biden will significantly loosen his approach to immigration. A new policy would largely prohibit migrants from applying for asylum at the southern border.

Though Biden rolled back some of former President Trump’s most stringent immigration policies, his administration’s approach grew more restrictive after record numbers of migrants began arriving at the border. Biden has encouraged Congress to negotiate more comprehensive legislation to overhaul the immigration system, but there has been no progress toward accomplishing that.


Biden made a number of other promises in the criminal justice area that will be evaluated as the campaign continues.


They include:


--Creating a $20 billion competitive grant program encouraging states to shift from incarceration to prevention. A House controlled by Democrats did not give Biden the billions of dollars it sought for community violence interventions. Under Republican control, the House is even less likely to approve his proposal,


--Using the power of the Justice Department to address systemic misconduct in police-departments and prosecutors’ offices. DOJ has initiated investigations of several large police departments, reviving a practice that the Trump administration dropped.


--Ending the federal government’s reliance on private prisons. Biden did order DOJ not to renew contracts with private facilities in 2021. However, those same kinds of facilities are still used for federal detention centers, including ones overseen by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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