“Senator Karl! You are the best.” – Joe Biden
Everyone deserves a second chance, but for South Carolinians with criminal records, second chances are few and far between. Whether they committed a crime decades ago or were released days ago, many returning citizens have turned their lives around but need just one thing from us: an opportunity.
We’ve made progress in South Carolina, but we still have far to go – and across the country, we have even farther to go. We desperately need a leader in the White House who recognizes this and is committed to getting returning citizens the support they need.
We need a president with the empathy and compassion to realize that they are more than their criminal records. They are more than their mistakes. We need a president who understands that returning citizens who want to turn their lives around are our neighbors, our friends and our families.
That is why I am impressed with Joe Biden’s plan to strengthen America’s commitment to justice.
Biden’s criminal justice reform plan is bold and comprehensive. It addresses so much of what we have tried to accomplish in South Carolina, such as fair sentencing, decriminalizing marijuana, eliminating mandatory minimums, and so much more. It will create a brighter future for returning citizens ready to make things right by providing them some light at the end of the tunnel. It will create a future where second chances are attainable.
Year after year, my district sends its share of people to prison and releases a lot of returning citizens back into our community. It is in Greenville’s best interest that we set them up for success, and Biden’s plan is a huge step in making sure of that.
I have heard from countless returning citizens across South Carolina who want nothing more than a job, to provide for their families, and start over. But instead of being met with hope and redemption, they are met with barrier after barrier. Many revert to crime to survive. The consequences of not enacting a criminal justice reform plan as progressive as Biden’s could mean life or death for some.
Biden’s plan would give returning citizens access to the health care, education, jobs and the housing they need to successfully rejoin society, while eliminating many of the barriers holding them back.
And as a state senator, I am particularly encouraged by his $20 billion program incentivizing states like South Carolina to act. Imagine a day when we have the resources to invest in efforts proven to reduce crime and make our communities safer, all because we shifted our focus from incarceration to prevention.
I’ve heard from a number of business and community leaders in Greenville who understand that a plan like this will not only alleviate the financial pressure our local and state governments are under to house inmates, but it also will actually kick start our local economies. Think of what returning citizens can contribute given just one opportunity to get a good-paying job.
For years, many South Carolina employers and non-profit organizations have been providing returning citizens with the training and support they need. But this is not their burden to carry alone. It’s time for a president who can step up to the plate.
As I look at criminal justice reform and analyze the candidates, it is refreshing to know that Biden understands that in providing these second chances, we must also tackle the institutionalized racism in our criminal justice system. Too many inmates in South Carolina, and across the country, are black and brown. They feel hopeless. They feel like the path their mistakes have put them on was destined to be their fate because of their skin color. But I’ve learned their outlook on life changes when we see their potential and we help them on their journey of opportunity.
Everyone deserves a second chance – Joe Biden’s plan is one of the boldest one yet, and just as importantly, he has the experience to deliver on it.