This post originally appeared on AddictingInfo.org.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has vowed to make criminal justice reform one of the main priorities of his administration.
Stressing America’s desperate need for a better system during a campaign stop in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, Sanders said:
“I consider reforming our criminal justice system one of the most important things that a president of the United States can do.”
Calling America’s prison numbers an “international embarrassment”, Sanders reminded his supporters that the United States’ incarceration rate is the highest in the entire world — and that he would work to reduce it under his presidency.
As part of his plan to tackle America’s sky-high prison numbers, Sanders called for an end to for-profit prisons and to take marijuana off the federal list of controlled substances. Nixing both the death penalty and mandatory minimum sentencing were also suggestions that Sanders made.
Reminding his audience that the current criminal justice system affected countless Americans, regardless of race, Sanders said:
“Too many lives have been destroyed because of police records.”
However, Sanders made sure to note that there was a disproportionately high incarceration rate among black males. Calling the way young black Americans are criminalized a “tragedy”, Sanders said, “What a destruction of an entire generation.”
Sanders proposed that instead of investing in prisons, America should be investing in jobs and education. Sanders also called for less militarization and more diversity in America’s police forces, along with more accountability for crimes committed by police officers.
“In the long run, I think it’s a lot cheaper to send a kid to the University of Illinois than to jail.
I want police departments to look like their community, not like occupying forces.”
There was also mention of the fear that many African Americans are living with now, in the wake of several high-profile police brutality cases that were fueled by racism over the past few years. Sanders said:
“I talked to too many African-Americans, people with PhDs, who worry when they get into a car and travel, they’re going to be pulled aside by a police officer and terrible things will happen.”
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