By Justin Chermol
At the California Democratic Convention over the weekend, 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro proposed a sweeping policy to fix what he calls a broken criminal justice system by targeting a major overhaul of the country's police forces.
"The system is broken because we see repeatedly and habitually, all of these videos that are just the tip of the iceberg," Castro told Cheddar from the convention. "These videos always show, especially young black men, that are mistreated by police, they're treated differently, excessive force is used, people are shot, sometimes they've been killed."
His plan, "People First Policing," is three-part: combating discriminatory policing, specifically racial; holding police officers accountable for their actions; and mending the relationship between law enforcement and communities.
"I would create a national 'use of force' standard that says that use of deadly force is only appropriate if there is imminent threat to life, and all other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted.," he said. "And that if a police department doesn't adopt that standard, and a civilian gets unnecessarily shot, and killed, by a police officer, they would risk losing federal funding."
Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for the Obama Administration, said he would also "reward" departments that initiated reforms.
"I know there are police departments that are trying to make this right," Castro said.
One issue at the forefront of policing and mass incarceration in the U.S. is drug-related offenses, most often characterized as nonviolent offenses. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, drug offenses account for more than 45 percent of Americans incarcerated.
Castro told Cheddar he would legalize marijuana at the federal level if elected president ー a position that has become the norm for the huge field of Democratic candidates ー pointing to case studies that he said show the wave of state-level legalization has not been deleterious.
"There have been way too many people in over the year's who have gotten caught up in the criminal justice system where they have just a little bit of marijuana, and because of that, their whole future is wrecked," he said.
Beyond legalization, the candidate said he'd also support expunging the records of those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses.
Castro is not the only candidate pushing for a criminal reform package that includes expunging the records for marijuana-related offenses. In Congress, Sens. Booker (D-N.J.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Harris (D-Calif.), Warren (D-Mass.) and Bennet (D-Colo.) ー all of whom are running for president ー have co-sponsored a marijuana justice bill that would end the prohibition on marijuana and clear the criminal records of those previously convicted.