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Hillary Clinton Calls for an End to ‘Mass Incarceration’.

Hillary Clinton called on Wednesday for broad criminal-justice reform and renewed trust between police officers and communities, reflecting the former First Lady’s evolution from supporting the policies instituted by her husband two decades ago in a period of high crime rates.Hillary Clinton swung big in her 2016 policy debut, declaring on Wednesday that “we have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance” and vowing to end the “era of mass incarceration.” Given how few particulars she offered (getting body cameras to every police department, cutting off federal funding for military equipment and mandatory minimum-sentencing reform), she should talk to 3 Bs: Bill her husband, Bill her City Hall frenemy and her old boss Barack about just how tough it is to rebalance the system.Central to the anger of the death of Freddie Gray is the presumption that Baltimore police officers caused the spinal injury that apparently killed him.

First, President Clinton, who in 1994 signed a landmark crime bill, with $30 billion for new cops and prisons and harsher sentences for drug offenders. Late Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that it had obtained a sealed police report, written by police, in which the second prisoner in the van purportedly said he could hear Gray “banging against the walls,” leading the unidentified prisoner to conclude Gray “was intentionally trying to injure himself.” The prisoner was in a different cell in the van and couldn’t see Gray. Clinton’s speech in the wake of rioting in Baltimore was the first time she has outlined a policy on a major issue since announcing her plans to run for president. She spoke broadly about reducing jail sentences for low-level offenders and the effects of imprisoning millions, particular African Americans. “We don’t want to create another incarceration generation,” Clinton said. Hillary didn’t mention that in her speech, nor did she note that the steep rise in imprisonment that bill led to came just after the peak of a 30-year era of rising crime rates that decimated cities.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid The immediate policy response to urban rebellion in Baltimore on Monday night came, somewhat surprisingly, from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who just launched her campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination. She is among several candidates who have offered ideas to address the growing tension between communities and law enforcement officers in many U.S. cities and the high incarceration rate for African-American men.

Clinton planned Wednesday’s speech in November, months before she announced her candidacy, according to former New York mayor David Dinkins, who introduced her. It’s precisely because crime rates have plummeted in the two decades since, that the new national conversation about policing’s dark side has emerged. On Friday, the Baltimore Police Department is turning over to state prosecutors the results of its internal investigation into Brown’s death, though the findings won’t be made public immediately. In her three weeks as a presidential candidate, Clinton’s only major speeches have been at noncampaign events like today’s at Columbia University.

She acknowledged that racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland, and Staten Island, New York, have revealed patterns of inequality that are “unmistakable and undeniable.” She drew from the work of policy scholars, most notably Michelle Alexander, who have documented mass incarceration’s broader impact on African-American communities and the larger society. Plenty of people are skeptical about this leak. “We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord,” Gray family lawyer Jason Downs told The Post. “We question the accuracy of the police reports we’ve seen thus far, including the police report that says Mr. She also called for an increase in community policing. “I would hope we don’t have a knee-jerk reaction” to what is happening across the country, said Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy, a Democrat. “I would also hope we don’t dismember the controls we have in place right now.” Angela Campbell, who has been a defense attorney for the past 12 years, called Clinton’s proposals “refreshing,” particularly pertaining to America’s sky-high incarceration rates. In New York City, not only was the drop in crime much steeper than it was nationally, but it coincided with a falling incarceration rate — what one sort of Brooklynite might call artisanal incarceration. During Bill Clinton’s first run for the presidency, in 1992, he sought to establish his mainstream credibility by hijacking a Jesse Jackson Rainbow/PUSH conference and chastising black activist Sister Souljah for her provocative remarks about the Los Angeles riots.

Now Hillary Clinton has used a predominantly white policy forum to implicitly repudiate the racist policies and politics that have shaped American urban policy over the past three decades. She said that Gray was not put in a seatbelt because, despite his being handcuffed, “he still has his teeth and he still has his saliva,” the police “didn’t want to reach over him.” Peter Weber Her remarks Wednesday reflected an evolution from the policing and incarceration policies that she supported in the 1990s, when as First Lady, she called for tougher prison sentences and “more prisons.” As President, Bill Clinton enacted a 1994 crime bill that built more prisons and increased the number of federal and death-penalty crimes, a bill that Hillary lobbied for in Congress. “We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders,” Hillary Clinton said in 1994. “The three strikes and you’re out for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. Against a national political backdrop of thousands of police and National Guard troops patrolling Baltimore, Clinton publicly called for the end of mass incarceration in America.

There’s indeed a national crisis of confidence in policing and justice, but it’s less clear there are national solutions outside of halting the war on drugs — which Clinton didn’t directly mention. President Obama more or less conceded that failure in his own remarks about Baltimore a day earlier, saying national “soul-searching” was needed and pointing to the Republican-run Congress to excuse his failure to do more. Her thinking reflects a broader evolution around the country, with politicians on both the left and the right backing ideas to reduce the prison population and change sentencing. Clinton administration programs redirected vital resources away from the urban poor and toward widespread prison construction and mandatory minimum sentences. In her first presidential campaign, Clinton called it a “disgrace” that “so many more African Americans” were incarcerated than whites, and as early as 2000 decried policing practices that appeared to target African Americans and Latinos. “Let us start by recognizing that crime is down dramatically — and lives have been saved in this city — because every day, brave men and women put on a uniform and place themselves in harm’s way to protect us,” she said in 2000. “And let us also recognize that far too many people believe they are considered guilty simply because of the color of their skin.”

The brutal combination of the Clinton administration’s crime and welfare reform bills essentially relegated two generations of poor black people to the margins of American society. According to the Iowa Department of Corrections, there were 51 jail admissions of misdemeanor parolees for technical violations in 2013 and 69 in 2014. They help account for the 1.5 million “missing” black men that Hillary Clinton talked about in her powerful speech, citing a recent New York Times story. In 2013, 35% of the violators were black; in 2014, 11% were black. “It’s OK to put someone in jail for OWI or public intoxication, but not for some marijuana?” he asked. “Let’s think carefully about what we’re doing and how it can affect public safety.” Des Moines, for several years, has practiced a form of community policing applauded by some residents.

Violence in Baltimore is the bitter harvest of public policy debates about the poor, black and young that African-Americans invariably lost during the past two generations. Officers are assigned a specific neighborhood, attend neighborhood meetings and get to know residents. “This has been very successful in” the King-Irving neighborhood, said Joann Muldoon, who is active in the neighborhood association. The shift from the hopeful, if poorly resourced, goals and ambitions of the Great Society programs of the 1960s gave way, by the 1980s and 1990s, to a bi-partisan embrace of neo-liberal crime policies that gutted the welfare state and created a racial caste system that has been identified as the “new Jim Crow.” Inmates walk around a gymnasium where they are housed due to overcrowding at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino, California, June 3, 2011. She said plans for an annual neighborhood celebration include one-on-one interactions between police and residents. “We’re going to give residents a card and ice-breaker questions, and they’re going to have to go up to the officers and introduce themselves and ask them some of the questions,” she said. The program would be modeled after one in Racine, Wis., in which houses were donated to the department and police set up their offices in the structures. “The mission of those officers was to become an expert on those neighborhoods,” Waterloo Police Chief Dan Trelka said. “It’s a simple concept and something we’re exploring using here.” Abdul-Samad, the Democrat lawmaker, supports community policing efforts including providing ways for officers to live in the communities they work in. “It shouldn’t be mandatory but should be voluntary,” he said.

America’s unapologetic commitment to policies that have created institutional racism and de facto white supremacy is a major reason for the violence, looting and property damage that have been the focus of breathless media reports. Shutting down prisons, releasing nonviolent offenders, offering drug rehabilitation, housing, food and hope to communities of color are a small step on a long road toward full citizenship. Consider the national response to white college students and sports fans who routinely engage in mayhem and violence after winning or losing big games. The pain and anguish and desperate hope on display in Baltimore will then have contributed to the nation’s racial progress in unexpected and substantive ways.

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