Hillary Clinton on criminal justice reform | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hillary Clinton on criminal justice reform

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge 'HARD TRUTHS': Hillary Clinton on criminal justice reform.
  • 'HARD TRUTHS': Hillary Clinton on criminal justice reform.
Ezra Klein hails HIllary Clinton's speech on criminal justice reform as one of her best, which included a call for an end to mass incarceration but also emphasized broader themes about income and education inequality.

We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America.

There is something profoundly wrong when African American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.

There is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes. And an estimated 1.5 million black men are "missing" from their families and communities because of incarceration and premature death.

There is something wrong when more than one out of every three young black men in Baltimore can't find a job.

There is something wrong when trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve breaks down as far as it has in many of our communities.

We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance. And these recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again.

Strong words in the face of Baltimore violence, though it is by no means an excuse for it.

She cited bipartisan work on justice reform. She didn't mention — but could have — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who's made criminal justice changes a major part of his first-term initiatives. Just today, he called on business people to give jobs to ex-felons.

Clinton said work was needed to build trust between communities and police. Best practices don't include buying "weapons of war" for use on city streets, she said. She called for equpping all police with body cameras to enhance accountability.

But it's about more than police training and tactics.

We also have to be honest about the gaps that exist across our country, the inequality that stalks our streets. Because you cannot talk about smart policing and reforming the criminal justice system if you also don't talk about what's needed to provide economic opportunity, better educational chances for young people, more support to families so they can do the best jobs they are capable of doing to help support their own children.

Six miles separate the poorest and richest Balitmore neighborhoods, but the gap in life expectancy between those neighborhoods is 20 years, she noted. (And for some stunning information on this broad topic, check this NY Times article today on how the U.S. is losing ground in life expectancy, infant mortality and other indicators against poorer countries.)

She talked secondly of the incarceration rate and the cost, equivalent to an Ivy League education in some states, to hold people in prisons.

Of the more than 2 million Americans incarcerated today, a significant percentage are low-level offenders: people held for violating parole or minor drug crimes, or who are simply awaiting trial in backlogged courts.

Keeping them behind bars does little to reduce crime. But it is does a lot to tear apart families and communities.

One in every 28 children now has a parent in prison. Think about what that means for those children.

Those who face release face long-term unemployment, she said. A reassessment of drug sentences and mandatory minimum sentences is needed, she said. Programs are needed for drug offenders. And jails have too many people whose mental health is the source of their problem, but there are no community treatment programs for them.

She closed almost lyrically.

Twenty-five years ago, in his inaugural address as Mayor, David Dinkins warned of leaving "too many lost amidst the wealth and grandeur that surrounds us."

Today, his words and the emotion behind them ring truer than ever. You don't have to look too far from this magnificent hall to find children still living in poverty or trapped in failing schools. Families who work hard but can't afford the rising prices in their neighborhood.

Mothers and fathers who fear for their sons' safety when they go off to school—or just to go buy a pack of Skittles.

These challenges are all woven together. And they all must be tackled together.

Our goal must truly be inclusive and lasting prosperity that's measured by how many families get ahead and stay ahead...

How many children climb out of poverty and stay out of prison...

How many young people can go to college without breaking the bank...

How many new immigrants can start small businesses ...

How many parents can get good jobs that allow them to balance the demands of work and family.

That's how we should measure prosperity. With all due respect, that is a far better measurement than the size of the bonuses handed out in downtown office buildings.

Now even in the most painful times like those we are seeing in Baltimore ...

When parents fear for their children...

When smoke fills the skies above our cities...

When police officers are assaulted...

Even then—especially then—let's remember the aspirations and values that unite us all: That every person should have the opportunity to succeed. That no one is disposable. That every life matters.

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