Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) on Wednesday unveiled a set of criminal justice reform proposals while also acknowledging the recent riots in Baltimore.
“This is a time when our collective efforts to devise approaches to the problems that still afflict us is more important than ever. Indeed it is a time for wisdom. For yet again the family of a young black man is grieving a life cut short, yet again the streets of an American city are marred by violence,” Clinton said Wednesday at Columbia University’s David N. Dinkins Leadership & Public Policy Forum. “By shattered glass and shouts of anger and show of force. Yet again a community is reeling, its faults laid bare and its bonds of trust and respect frayed. Yet again brave police officers have been attacked in the line of duty.”
The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate’s comments came during a week that saw rioting in Baltimore and clashes with police. Maryland’s national guard was called in to tamp down on the violence.
Clinton specifically named Walter Scott “shot in the back in Charleston, South Carolina,” Tamir Rice “shot in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, unarmed and just twelve years old. Eric Garner, choked to death after being stopped for selling cigarettes on the streets of our city, and now Freddie Gray, his spine nearly severed while in police custody.”
President Barack Obama specifically criticized the media on Tuesday for ignoring the peaceful protests about Gray’s death and focusing only on the violence in Baltimore.
“We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America,” Clinton said. “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.”
Later in her speech Clinton ticked off a list of policy proposals in the criminal justice system: making sure federal funding for law enforcement does not go to buying “weapons of war that have no place on our streets,” making sure every police department in the country has body cameras “to record interactions between officers on patrol and suspects.”
“That will improve transparency and accountability, it will help good people on both sides of the lens,” Clinton said. She cautioned that body cameras wouldn’t prevent every tragedy but it’s still “a necessary step that we should take.”
Clinton then pivoted to prison reform.
“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.”
So Clinton’s solution is to “pursue alternative punishments for low-level offenders” and end the “era of mass incarceration.”
Her last point was on promoting specialized drug courts and juvenile programs as well as prioritizing mental health.