Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to introduce bills to reform the United States' "broken" criminal justice system, according to a statement from his campaign. He was also backing legislation to bring down skyrocketing prescription drug prices. The self-proclaimed socialist and 2016 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination pointed to private companies as a leading cause of both problems.
"At a time when we are spending $50 billion a year on our correctional system, it makes a lot more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our young people than in more and more jails," Sanders said in a campaign statement Tuesday. "We need to end, once and for all, the disgraceful practice of corporations profiting from the incarceration of Americans," he added.
The legislation would "increase oversight and eliminate the overcharging of prisoners by private companies for banking and other services," Sanders said. It would also end federal, state and local contracts for private prisons. Sanders highlighted racial disparities among the incarcerated in the U.S., pointing to the fact that the majority of prisoners are black and Hispanic.
We need to end the disgraceful practice of corporations profiting from the incarceration of Americans. pic.twitter.com/avETOIUJHj
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 9, 2015
In another swing at corporations, Sanders said in early September that he would introduce legislation that would allow the U.S. federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices. “People should not have to go without the medication they need just because their elected officials aren’t willing to challenge the drug and healthcare industry lobby,” Sanders said in a statement on his Senate website.
Some specialty drugs cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, constituting roughly 32 percent of spending on drugs even as they account of a mere 1 percent of all prescriptions. Cancer drugs Yervoy and Opdivo cost more than $120,000 year, an opinion article in the New York Times noted Wednesday. Meanwhile, Cerezyme, a therapy for Gaucher disease, a genetic disorder that can impair organ function and weaken bones, costs roughly $300,000 annually.