As the country faces an unprecedented murder spike, President Joe Biden is claiming that eliminating cash bail for violent criminals is critical to promoting "gender equity and equality."
A 42-page report from the White House Gender Policy Council entitled the "National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality" outlines a "whole of government" approach to ending so-called inequality between men, women, and transgender people. Among the critical steps necessary to remedy disparities between these groups, the White House alleges, is working to overturn cash bail, a legal mechanism that proponents say helps keep violent criminals off the street.
"We will work to end cash bail and reform our pretrial system, recognizing the harm these processes cause, particularly for Black women and families," the report says.
The Biden administration's decision to push for a radical criminal justice reform measure—even as broad swaths of the public say they are concerned about rising violence—reflects the political tensions of an increasingly unpopular president who feels compelled to placate his party’s radical base. Polling from the summer showed crime emerging as a top issue for voters, and some Democrats blamed rioting during Black Lives Matter protests for their poor down-ballot performance last November.
According to FBI data, the country saw a nearly 30 percent increase in homicides in 2020. Such a jump was the largest in one year since the federal government started collecting crime statistics in the 1960s. Overall, violent crime increased 5 percent.
Advocates of maintaining cash bail policies point to cities such as Chicago and New York City, which eliminated the practice for most offenses and saw murders and shootings rise above the national average. One study by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton universities concluded that pretrial release increases the likelihood of rearrest before the offender's trial by 37 percent, as well as the chance the alleged criminal misses their court date.
In an effort to alleviate political pressure, Biden announced a new federal program in June to assist departments facing strained funding amid the largest one-year spike in domestic homicides ever recorded. Under Biden's plan, state and local governments are permitted to spend $350 billion in stimulus funds on paying police officers more or restoring the number of hired officers to pre-pandemic levels.
"This is not a time to turn our backs on law enforcement or our communities," Biden said at the time.
Despite his attempts to rebuild trust with law enforcement, a group that overwhelmingly supported former president Donald Trump in his reelection campaign, Biden alleges broad discrimination in the criminal justice system against minority groups. As part of its goal to build "safe, healthy, and whole families and communities," the White House says it will work to reduce "the number of people incarcerated in the United States and ... [increase] federal oversight and accountability for police departments and prosecutors’ offices to address systemic misconduct."
The dramatic overhaul of the criminal justice system outlined in the report extends to supporting the "development of restorative justice and other alternatives to a criminal justice system response." Such policies include "trauma-informed" programs—a term used 11 times in the report with no further explanation—for criminal offenders.
Advancing "gender equity" extends to changes in immigration policy as well, according to the White House. Loosening restrictions of access to "government-funded services" for immigrants, as well as advancing "language access rights of individuals with limited English proficiency," are just two steps outlined to create a more equitable country for women and transgender people.
Placing illegal immigrants in holding facilities before their deportation, the White House alleges, increases the "exploitation faced by ... women, girls, and LGBTQI+ individuals." Instead, the White House will support "humane and trauma-informed practices at the U.S. border" that includes "alternatives to detention."