(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for an end of “over-policing” in black neighborhoods during the PBS Democratic presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wis., on Thursday night.
“What we have to do is end over-policing in African-American neighborhoods. The reality is that both the African-American community and the white community do marijuana at about equal rates,” Sanders said. “The reality is four times as many blacks get arrested for marijuana. Truth is that far more blacks get stopped for traffic violations.”
An undecided voter via Facebook wrote: “Wisconsin is number one in African-American male incarceration, according to a University of Wisconsin study. They found that Wisconsin's incarceration rate for black men, which is at 13 percent, was nearly double the country's rate. What can we do across the nation to address this?"
“This is one of the great tragedies in our country today, and we can no longer continue to sweep it under the rug. It has to be dealt with. Today a male African-American baby born today stands a one-in-four chance of ending up in jail. That is beyond unspeakable,” he said. “So what we have to do is the radical reform of a broken criminal justice system.
“What we have to do is end over-policing in African-American neighborhoods. The reality is that both the African-American community and the white community do marijuana at about equal rates. The reality is four times as many blacks get arrested for marijuana. Truth is that far more blacks get stopped for traffic violations,” Sanders said.
“The truth is that sentencing for blacks is higher than for whites. We need fundamental police reform, clearly, clearly, when we talk about a criminal justice system. I would hope that we could all agree that we are sick and tired of seeing videos on television of unarmed people, often African-Americans, shot by police officers,” Sanders said.
“What we have got to do is make it clear that any police officer who breaks the law will, in fact, be held accountable,” he added.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she agreed with Sanders, noting that the first speech she gave during her campaign last April was about criminal justice reform and ending mass incarceration.
“The statistics from Wisconsin are particularly troubling, because it is the highest rate of incarceration for African-Americans in our nation, twice the national average, and we know of the tragic, terrible event that lead to the death of Dontre Hamilton right here in Milwaukee, a young man unarmed, who should still be with us,” Clinton said. “His family certainly believes that, and so do I. So we have work to do.
“There have been some good recommendations about what needs to happen. President Obama's policing commission came out with some. I have fully endorsed those, but we have to restore policing that will actually protect the communities that police officers are sworn to protect,” she said.
“And, then we have to go after sentencing, and that's one of the problems here in Wisconsin because so much of what happened in the criminal justice system doesn't happen at the federal level, it happens at the state and local level, but I would also add this,” said Clinton.
“There are other racial discrepancies, really systemic racism in this state, as in others, education, in employment, in the kinds of factors that too often lead from a position where young people, particularly young men, are pushed out of school early, are denied employment opportunities. So, when we talk about criminal justice reform, and ending the era of mass incarceration, we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities,” she added.
Sanders called for more diversity in police departments, saying they should “look like the communities they serve in their diversity.”
“And, where we are failing abysmally is in the very high rate of recidivism we see. People are being released from jail without the education, without the job training, without the resources that they need to get their lives together, then they end up – we're shocked that they end up back in jail again. So, we have a lot of work to do,” he said.
“But, here is a pledge I've made throughout this campaign, and it's really not a very radical pledge. When we have more people in jail, disproportionately African American and Latino, than China does, a communist authoritarian society four times our size,” Sanders said.
“Here's my promise, at the end of my first term as president we will not have more people in jail than any other country. We will invest in education, and jobs for our kids, not incarceration and more jails,” he added.