Democratic Candidate for President
Hillary believes our criminal justice system is out of balance. In her first major speech of the campaign, she said we have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America and called for an end to the “era of mass incarceration.”
Although the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we have almost 25 percent of the total prison population. A significant percentage of the more than 2 million Americans incarcerated today are nonviolent offenders. African American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men found guilty of the same offenses.
“Black lives matter. Everyone in this country should stand firmly behind that. … Since this campaign started, I’ve been talking about the work we must do to address the systemic inequities that persist in education, in economic opportunity, in our justice system. But we have to do more than talk—we have to take action.”
Hillary believes that, to successfully reform our criminal justice system, we must work to strengthen the bonds of trust between our communities and our police, end the era of mass incarceration, and ensure a successful transition of individuals from prison to home. As president, she will:
-Work to strengthen bonds of trust between communities and police. Effective policing and constitutional policing go hand-in-hand—we can and must do both. Hillary will work to promote effective, accountable, constitutional policing, including:
-Making new investments to support state-of-the-art law enforcement training programs at every level on issues such as implicit bias, use of force, de-escalation, community policing and problem solving, alternatives to incarceration, crisis intervention, and officer safety and wellness.
-Strengthening the U.S. Department of Justice’s pattern or practice unit by increasing resources, working to secure subpoena power, and improving data collection for pattern or practice investigations.
-Doubling funding for the U.S. Department of Justice “Collaborative Reform” program to provide technical assistance and training to agencies that undertake voluntary efforts toward transformational reform of their police departments. Across the country, there are police departments deploying creative and effective strategies that we can learn from and build on.
-Supporting legislation to end racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.
-Providing federal matching funds to make body cameras available to every police officer to increase transparency and accountability on both sides of the lens.
-Promoting oversight and accountability in use of controlled equipment by limiting the transfer of military equipment by the federal government to local law enforcement, eliminating the one-year use requirement, and requiring transparency by agencies that purchase equipment using federal funds.
-Collecting and reporting national data on policing to inform policing strategies and provide greater transparency and accountability, including robust state and local data on issues such as crime, officer involved shootings, and deaths in custody.
-Creating national guidelines for use of force that recognize the need for officers to protect their safety and the safety of others, but emphasize use of force as a last resort and at the appropriate level. The federal government has an important role to play in standardizing best practices for the use of force.
-Take action on mandatory minimum sentences. Excessive federal mandatory minimum sentences keep nonviolent drug offenders in prison for longer than is necessary or useful and have increased racial inequality in our criminal justice system. Hillary will reform mandatory minimum sentences, including:
Reducing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses by cutting them in half.
-Applying Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactively to allow current nonviolent prisoners to seek fairer sentences.
-Eliminating the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine so that equal amounts of crack and powder cocaine carry equal sentences and applying this change retroactively.
-Reforming the “strike” system to focus on violent crime by narrowing the category of prior offenses that count as strikes to exclude nonviolent drug offenses, and reducing the mandatory penalty for second- and third-strike offenses.
-Granting additional discretion to judges in applying mandatory minimum sentences by expanding the “safety valve” to a larger set of cases.
-Focus federal enforcement resources on violent crime, not simple marijuana possession. Marijuana arrests, including for simple possession, account for a huge number of drug arrests. Further, significant racial disparities exist in marijuana enforcement, with black men significantly more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, even though usage rates are similar. Hillary believes we need an approach to marijuana that includes:
-Allowing states that have enacted marijuana laws to act as laboratories of democracy, as long as they adhere to certain federal priorities such as not selling to minors, preventing intoxicated driving, and keeping organized crime out of the industry.
-Rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance. Hillary supports medical marijuana and would reschedule marijuana to advance research into its health benefits.
-Prioritize treatment and rehabilitation—rather than incarceration—for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. -Over half of prison and jail inmates suffer from a mental health problem, and up to 65 percent of the correctional population meets the medical criteria for a substance use disorder. Hillary will ensure adequate training for law enforcement for crisis intervention and referral to treatment, as appropriate, for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with mental health or addiction problems. She will also direct the attorney general to issue guidance to federal prosecutors on seeking treatment over incarceration for low-level, nonviolent drug crimes.
-End the privatization of prisons. Hillary believes we should move away from contracting out this core responsibility of the federal government to private corporations, and from creating private industry incentives that may contribute—or have the appearance of contributing—to over-incarceration. The campaign does not accept contributions from federally registered lobbyists or PACs for private prison companies, and will donate any such direct contributions to charity.
-Promote successful re-entry by formerly incarcerated individuals. This year, the number of people released from state or federal prison will reach approximately 600,000. For those given a second chance, and for the health and safety of the communities to which those individuals return, the reentry pathway must not be littered with barriers, but rather paved with a fair opportunity for success. Clinton will work to remove barriers and create pathways to employment, housing, health care, education, and civic participation, including:
-Taking executive action to “ban the box” for federal employers and contractors, so that applicants have an opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications before being asked about their criminal records.
-Supporting legislation to restore voting rights to individuals who have served their sentences.