In a new essay published Tuesday, Democratic presidential Hillary Clinton argued America needs to get real with itself about racial issues.
“We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America. Despite all the progress we have made together, the United States has less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, yet we have almost 25 per cent of the world’s total prison population,” Clinton wrote.
The essay was part of a collection of op-eds by leading US politicians, including likely Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, published in the Brennan Center book, “Solutions: American Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice Reform.”
Though the op-eds were clearly penned before Monday’s racially-charged riots in Baltimore, they nevertheless shine a light on how the next occupant of the Oval Office might tackle the difficult issues like discrimination in the justice system that have been at the heart of the protests there. Violence rocked the Maryland city after the funeral for 25-year-old Freddie Grey, who died April 19 after suffering a fatal spinal injury in police custody.
Clinton previously called for “hard truths” about race and justice following similar riots last year in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as widespread protests against police discrimination. The protesters have cited police-involved deaths of unarmed black men as proof that major reforms are needed.
Clinton’s essay, “Respect by the Law, Respect for the Law,” heralded past reforms to reduce sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine crimes, which many feel unfairly target African-Americans with harsher penalties. However, it wasn’t clear how the former secretary of state would transform the justice system if she wins the 2016 presidential race.
Clinton nevertheless clearly stated the biases in the current system are unacceptable.
“We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance, and I hope that the tragedies of the last year give us the opportunity to come together as a nation to find our balance again,” Clinton wrote. “We can stand up together and say: Yes, black lives matter. Yes, the government should serve and protect all of our people. Yes, our country is strongest when everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream.”
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