Here's where the 2024 presidential candidates stand on crime and criminal justice

The White House hopefuls have shared different opinions on policing.

October 4, 2023, 1:38 PM

Policing and criminal justice are two of the issues on the campaign trail ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

The Republican and Democratic contenders differ over how they would handle public safety and criminals. Broadly speaking, Republicans want to increase punishments and policing to address crime while Democrats want to reform the system.

Here’s a brief look at where the major candidates stand on the issue.

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden has bucked some calls from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, saying, “We should all agree the answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police.”

At the same time, he has also pushed for greater accountability for when police “violate the public trust.”

In the White House, he has also backed community policing and violence intervention efforts and called for more mental and social services funding.

PHOTO: Crime
ABC News Photo Illustration

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

During an appearance on "The Breakfast Club" radio program in September, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an attorney and activist running against Biden as a Democrat, said that he would support a federal anti-Black hate crime law.

Kennedy added that he would appoint an attorney general who would aggressively pursue investigations into alleged hate crimes and police misconduct.

His campaign website states that "we will transform the police. We will incentivize them to prevent violence, not make unnecessary arrests. We will train them in deescalation and mediation skills and partner them with neighborhood organizations."

Marianne Williamson

Author and speaker Marianne Williamson, who is challenging Biden in the Democratic primary, has called for a rehabilitative approach to addressing crime, arguing that punitive accountability is “largely ineffective.”

Williamson supports community policing, decriminalizing addiction and investing in after-school programming as ways to tackle crime.

Donald Trump

During former President Donald's Trump tenure, he played a major role in enacting the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform law that reduced some mandatory minimum prison sentences, gave judges the power to sentence nonviolent drug offenders to less time behind bars and more, such as increasing job training to lower recidivism rates.

Trump has supported rehabilitation-focused measures for nonviolent crimes -- but, at the same time, he has advocated for the death penalty for drug dealers and repeatedly used hard-line rhetoric when talking about criminals.

Ron DeSantis

Although Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has not rolled out specific policies yet on how he would combat crime and address public safety as president, he’s often said that he would support law enforcement.

In the past, as governor, DeSantis supported recruitment bonuses in the state for police officers.

PHOTO: Hundreds of NYPD Officers are pictured during roll-call on Fifth Avenue near 60th Street in New York, Sept. 19, 2023.
Hundreds of NYPD Officers are pictured during roll-call on Fifth Avenue near 60th Street in New York, Sept. 19, 2023.
New York Daily News via Getty Images

Nikki Haley

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the Trump administration, has spoken about "bringing back law and order" to the country and contended that some of her fellow Republicans want to bring crime down.

Haley has said that leaders should hold prosecutors responsible and to prosecute according to the law, claiming that some people who are arrested by officers are let out of jail soon after.

Vivek Ramamswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy, a commentator and businessman, has said he has seen a correlation between a “national identity crisis” and violent crime.

The Republican candidate has contended the issue can be remedied with “faith-based approaches” and police "who aren’t afraid to be sued for doing their jobs."

Mike Pence

Former Vice President Mike Pence has vocally criticized the progressive-backed call for redirecting some police funding but has broken from some of his GOP competitors over their calls to defund the FBI, a move he does not support.

Pence has, however, vowed to “clean house” at the Justice Department and FBI, which he argues would restore lost confidence in the institutions, and often decries a so-called “two-tiered system of justice” between Democrats and Republicans.

Chris Christie

Former New Jersey governor and Republican Chris Christie, who has worked as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey, said that if elected he would direct his attorney general and the Department of Justice to aggressively prosecute violent crime in major cities, superseding local prosecutors.

Christie has also defended the work of the FBI amid calls from other Republican candidates for it to be dismantled, saying that it was the work of its agents that prevented further terrorist attacks on the U.S. post-9/11.

Tim Scott

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has stated his position on crime is that America needs to "back the blue" and "refund the police."

The Republican has said he has legislation he would push that would increase law enforcement spending by 500%.

PHOTO: NY Corrections officers and criminal justice reform activist exchange words during a rally outside of City Hall before the start of a City Council hearing on Intro 549, Sept. 28, 2022, in New York.
NY Corrections officers and criminal justice reform activist exchange words during a rally outside of City Hall before the start of a City Council hearing on Intro 549, Sept. 28, 2022, in New York.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Doug Burgum

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican hopeful, has tied crime and addiction together during his campaign stomps, with the latter topic being very personal for him. His wife, Kathryn, has been a recovering alcoholic for the last 20 years.

While public safety is not one of his main three issues, Burgum has suggested that jail without rehab is "not a cure for addiction." He has also spoke out against defunding police departments.

Asa Hutchinson

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson released a plan to reform federal law enforcement agencies in a way that he says empowers officers, allows for more transparency and rebuilds trust in the institutions among the American people.

The Republican and former federal prosecutor has noted that crime in the U.S. is not limited to large cities.

ABC News’ Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Libby Cathey, Abby Cruz, Hannah Demissie, Fritz Farrow, Lalee Ibssa, Soo Rin Kim, Nicholas Kerr, Will McDuffie, Kendall Ross and Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.

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