Biden flips the script and reduces sentencing of over 75 non-violent drug users

BIDEN ISSUES FIRST ACT OF CLEMENCY to pardon and reduce sentencing of non-violent drug users. Getty Images

Cassidy O’Toner | Writer

April 28, 2022

Historically, the United States has made a point to punish drug users rather than helping to rehabilitate them. The system of punishing citizens for their transgressions and offenses overshadows the help they truly need. This week, however, President Biden made a shocking decision to change the system. 

On April 26, President Biden pardoned three and reduced the sentences of seventy-five non-violent drug offenders. Following the pardons, the president gave a speech in which he discussed the need for criminal justice reform and released plans for his administration to expand economic opportunities and ease reentry into society for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Biden reinforced American core value of  “second chances,” connecting this to the rehabilitation that many drug users sorely need. It’s true that substance abuse needs intervention, but jail time is not the solution. Real, professional help is required, and locking someone in a cage is only delaying recovery. 

PRESIDENT BIDEN ADDRESSES MEDIA after delivering his speech. Getty Images

The President’s critique of the criminal justice system brings up an issue that many civil rights groups have struggled with for years. He went on to say his administration will “continue to review clemency petitions and deliver reforms that advance equity and justice, provide second chances, and enhance the well-being and safety of all Americans.” The long-awaited action to address the mass incarceration and racial disparities within the justice system has been a long time coming, but hopefully, Biden’s recent action will mark the beginning of greater reform.

Still, President Biden’s recent action is not without its criticisms.“Pardoning a few people is not prison reform,” senior Sage Brislen said. “Those people who just got out are being replaced just as fast.” Helping these people was a step in the right direction, but what does this really change?

So often addicts are reduced to nothing but criminals and the illness they are suffering from is overlooked. Addiction is a sickness like any other, and it has taken too long for the federal government to recognize it as such.

“I think it’s good that Biden is taking these steps,” senior Cameron Trunec said. “It’s helping rehabilitate people rather than locking them up and altering their entire life.” Clearly, a great deal of work still needs to be done in this arena, but hopefully the President’s actions this last week can help set a hopeful precedent for the future. 

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