criminal justice

Do you support eliminating mandatory minimums in federal sentencing?

Yes

Yes

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet supports eliminating mandatory minimums in federal sentencing, he told The Post.

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“Yes. Biden supports an end to mandatory minimums at both the federal and state levels,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “As president, he will work for the passage of legislation to repeal mandatory minimums at the federal level. And, he will give states incentives to repeal their mandatory minimums.”

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Joe Biden
Biden

Pete Buttigieg

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg supports eliminating mandatory minimums in federal sentencing, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney supports eliminating mandatory minimums in federal sentencing, he told The Post.

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John Delaney
Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard has pledged to end mandatory minimum sentencing.

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar supports eliminating mandatory minimums in federal sentencing, she told The Post.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Deval Patrick

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick supports eliminating mandatory minimums in federal sentencing, a campaign spokesperson told The Post. "I think that minimum mandatory sentencing needs a huge overhaul," Patrick said at a New Hampshire event.

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Deval Patrick
Patrick

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“Yes. [Sanders] will end mandatory minimum sentencing,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “Today, the U.S. imprisons people at a higher rate than any other nation, in no small part due to extremely harsh sentencing policies and the War on Drugs. Bernie will stop excessive sentences with the goal of cutting the incarcerated population in half. We will expand the use of restorative justice and sentencing alternatives, including community supervision and publicly funded halfway houses.”

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Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

“Yes. I've worked in California to get rid of automatic sentence enhancements, where if someone has a prior, they automatically get time added to their next sentence,” Steyer told The Post. “We got rid of that, and we pushed on it because it's a question of, Don't we need more judge discretion? And all of these mandatory minimums and automatic sentences are very harsh and inhumane and actually lead to people serving much longer sentences than what a judge would assign.”

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Tom Steyer
Steyer

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“Yes. The federal prison population has grown dramatically in the past decades, driven in large part by rules requiring mandatory minimum sentences and other excessively long sentencing practices. These harsh sentencing practices are not only immoral, there’s little evidence that they are effective,” Warren told The Post. “Congress should reduce or eliminate the mandatory minimums provisions of the 1994 crime bill, and give judges more flexibility in sentencing decisions, with the goal of reducing incarceration to mid-1990s levels.”

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Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

“Yes. Judges should be free to take the situation as a whole into account when considering charges,” a Yang campaign spokesperson told The Post. “Mandatory minimums put pressure on defendants to accept plea bargains they wouldn’t otherwise, and are unfair between different crimes.”

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Andrew Yang
Yang

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. “End harsh mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses,” Booker's criminal justice plan said. His Next Step criminal justice proposal pledges to “reduce harsh mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses: the 20-year mandatory minimum would be reduced to 10 years, the 10-year mandatory minimum would be reduced to 5 years, and the 5-year mandatory minimum would be reduced to 2 years.” A campaign spokesperson confirmed Booker supports eliminating mandatory minimums.

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Cory Booker
Booker

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. “Yes. I want to end federal mandatory sentencing,” Williamson told The Post.

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Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Unclear/No response

Unclear/No response

Mike Bloomberg

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg “supports the First Step Act but he believes that Washington can go further. The Justice Department should provide incentives for states to experiment with and evaluate the impact of shorter sentences,” his criminal justice plan said. He did not answer this question by publication.

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Michael Bloomberg
Bloomberg

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Background Amid the “War on Drugs,” the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 established minimum sentences for drug possession, including a five-year minimum for five grams of crack. About 45 percent of federal inmates were imprisoned on drug offenses as of Jan.10, according to the Bureau of Prisons. The First Step Act eased some mandatory minimums, but Democrats argue they should be further reduced or eliminated altogether.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. criminal justice policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

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Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.