Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech on criminal justice reform on Wednesday went beyond a vague set of narrow policy changes on the prison system. Her speech also touched on not only the rioting in Baltimore but also the shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Tamir Rice in Ohio, and the problematic incarceration rates for African Americans.
Here are the five key points Clinton delivered in her speech:
Clinton started off her speech by addressing the recent riots in Baltimore over the last week. She said this was the latest example of the many deaths of young black men related to confrontations with police.
“What we have seen in Baltimore should, and I think does, tear at our soul. From Ferguson to Staten Island to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable,” Clinton said.
Clinton in her speech ticked off the names of similar deaths that caught national attention: Walter Scott in Charleston, South Carolina, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, Eric Garner in New York, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
Clinton said that steps should be taken to make sure every police force in America has body cameras for their officers. This, Clinton said, would not prevent every confrontation gone wrong with police, but it would be a positive change.
“That will improve transparency and accountability, it will help good people on both sides of the lens,” Clinton said.
In December, in the wake of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, President Barack Obama urged Congress to authorize $75 million in funds to equip local police departments with body cameras.
One of the most shocking aspects of the police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 in response to Brown’s death was the local police force’s use of military hardware. Police, Clinton said, shouldn’t have weapons or other military gear that isn’t necessary.
“Weapons of war have no place on the streets,” Clinton said.
A major theme throughout Clinton’s speech was the shocking incarceration rates of African Americans in the United States. Clinton mentioned this just after she said the country has to face some “hard truths” about race 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,” Clinton said.
American prisons, Clinton said, are filled with people charged with low-level offenses. This is costly and damaging to American communities. The U.S., the former secretary continued, should look at “alternative punishments for low-level offenders” in order to end “the era of mass incarceration.”
“Of the more than two 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 courts,” Clinton said. “Keeping them behind bars does little to reduce crime but it does a lot to tear apart families and communities.”