Hillary Clinton Calls for End to “Era of Mass Incarceration”

Press Release April 28, 2015
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<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384<br />
Bill Piper 202-669-6430</p>

Today, Hillary Clinton became the latest Presidential candidate to embrace criminal justice reform. In her first major policy speech since announcing her candidacy, Clinton called for an end to the “era of mass incarceration.”

“There is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison in their lifetimes, and an estimated 1.5 million black men are ‘missing’ from their families and communities because of incarceration and premature death,” Clinton said. “The consequences are profound. … It’s time to change our approach,” she added, citing the fact that 1 out of every 28 American children have a parent locked up behind bars.

“The fact that the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president chose the subject of mass incarceration as the focus of her first major policy address since she announced her candidacy is of great significance politically,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Action.  “So is the fact that all of the other Democratic candidates and most of the Republican ones agree that something needs to be done to reduce incarceration in our country.”

Clinton also called for increased access to mental health and drug treatment. “The promise of deinstitutionalizing those in mental health facilities was supposed to be followed by the creation of community-based treatment centers … Our prisons and our jails are now our mental health institutions.”

Clinton's take on criminal justice has undergone a big shift since the 1990s, when President Bill Clinton signed the disastrous 1994 crime bill into law. At the time, Hillary Clinton and major politicians from both parties were pushing for more prisons and stricter sentencing laws.

Now, times have changed. A front-page New York Times story earlier this week (“2016 Candidates are United in Call to Alter Justice System”) described the human and economic fallout of mass incarceration and how policymakers are increasingly embracing the public’s call for major reforms. Last month, DPA joined with a bipartisan coalition including everyone from ALEC and Koch Industries to the ACLU at the #Cut50 Summit in Washington, D.C. And just last night, Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show reported on the rare coalition joining Democrats and Republicans together to end mass incarceration.

“An issue once regarded as the third rail of American politics has now become the principal arena of bipartisan accord and potential for meaningful legislative and administrative reform,” added Nadelmann.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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