Hillary Clinton photo

Hillary Clinton Campaign Press Release - More Than 1 in 100 American Adults Is Behind Bars. Here's How We Fix That

October 30, 2015

Our criminal justice system is broken—but there are three things we can do right now to start changing that.

The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world: We have less than 5 percent of the world's populations, but nearly 25 percent of the world's prisoners.

It's clear our criminal justice system isn't just broken. It's in crisis. And there are three specific things we can do right now to start fixing it.

1. End racial profiling in America.

African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white Americans. But when it comes to who is pulled over, searched, and arrested during a police stop, the nationwide racial disparities are starker than many people realize:


There's a term for this: racial profiling. It's demeaning, wrong, and unconstitutional. And it doesn't work. In fact, it makes our law enforcement less effective by distracting police officers from the clues that actually hint at criminal activity.

As Hillary says, "Everyone in every community benefits when there is respect for the law, and when everyone in every community is respected by the law." And prohibiting law enforcement officials at all levels from relying on race during investigations is an important first step toward building trust between police and the communities they serve.

2. End the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.

Under current U.S. sentencing laws, the penalty for one gram of crack is equivalent to 18 times that much powder cocaine.


And what's more—there's no scientific basis for the distinction in sentencing. Crack is nearly identical to powder cocaine. The main difference is that African Americans tend to be the primary users and distributors of crack cocaine, while white Americans are more likely to use powder cocaine.

And that one disparity has caused the number of people behind bars—specifically African Americans—to skyrocket. Low-level, nonviolent drug offenders are serving longer sentences under mandatory minimum sentencing laws—which impose a strict number of years in prison for those convicted of using or distributing certain drugs.


The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the sentencing disparity from a whopping 100:1 to 18:1. Unsurprisingly, that led to a drop in the federal prison population. But until equal amounts of crack and powder cocaine—two forms of the exact same drug—carry equal sentences, African Americans will continue to be imprisoned at disproportionate rates.

Because many of the 2.4 million Americans currently in prison are non-violent, low-level offenders, ending this sentencing disparity will go a long way toward ending the era of mass incarceration.

3. "Ban the box" and give prisoners who did their time a fair shot at employment.

600,000 prisoners re-enter society every year. Up to 60 percent face long-term unemployment because many employers are reluctant to hire applicants with a criminal record, regardless of their qualifications. And in just about every area of the country, job applicants are required by law to disclose their criminal history.

In fact, applicants who disclose that they have a criminal history are half as likely to get an interview—and the odds are even worse for African Americans.


That little box on most job application forms creates barriers for people with a felony on their record—and getting rid of it will give them a fair chance to get work. Research shows that hiring managers are much more likely to hire applicants whom they meet and get to know before learning about their criminal record.

Of course, there are racial disparities in hiring that "banning the box" won't solve. But this would be an important step in the right direction: By banning the box and preventing federal employers and contractors from asking about criminal history at the application stage, 65 million Americans with criminal records could have a better chance at employment—and with it, a second chance.

Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton Campaign Press Release - More Than 1 in 100 American Adults Is Behind Bars. Here's How We Fix That Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317034

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