Category Archives: Criminal Justice

Biden on Derek Chauvin Verdict: ‘We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country-let that be George Floyd’s legacy’

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin being led away to jail after being found guilty on all three counts in the death of George Floyd. President Joe Biden declared, “We must not turn away.  We can’t turn away.  We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country.  It’s my hope and prayer that we live up to the legacy.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Joe Biden gave remarks immediately following the jury verdict that found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty for the death of George Floyd, saying “We must not turn away.  We can’t turn away.  We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country.  It’s my hope and prayer that we live up to the legacy.” Here is a highlighted transcript:

Today, a jury in Minnesota found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May.
 
It was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism
the Vice President just referred to — the systemic racism that is a stain our nation’s soul; the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans; the profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day.

The murder of George Floyd launched a summer of protest we hadn’t seen since the Civil Rights era in the ‘60s — protests that unified people of every race and generation in peace and with purpose to say, “Enough.  Enough.  Enough of the senseless killings.”

Today — today’s verdict is a step forward.  I just spoke with the Governor of Minnesota, who thanked me for the close work with his team. 

And I also just spoke with George Floyd’s family again — a remarkable family of extraordinary courage.  Nothing can ever bring their brother, their father back.  But this can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.

Let’s also be clear that such a verdict is also much too rare.  For so many people, it seems like it took a unique and extraordinary convergence of factors: a brave young woman with a smartphone camera; a crowd that was traumatized — traumatized witnesses; a murder that lasts almost 10 minutes in broad daylight for, ultimately, the whole world to see; officers standing up and testifying against a fellow officer instead of just closing ranks, which should be commended; a jury who heard the evidence, carried out their civic duty in the midst of an extraordinary moment, under extraordinary pressure.
 
For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver a just — just basic accountability.
 
We saw how traumatic and exhausting just watching the trial was for so many people.  Think about it, those of you who are listening — think about how traumatic it was for you.  You weren’t there.  You didn’t know any of the people. 

But it was difficult, especially for the witnesses who had to relive that day.

It’s a trauma on top of the fear so many people of color live with every day when they go to sleep at night and pray for the safety of themselves and their loved ones.
 

Again — as we saw in this trial, from the fellow police officers who testified — most men and women who wear the badge
serve their communities honorably.
 
But those few who fail to meet that standard
must be held accountable.  And they were today; one was.  No one should be above the law.  And today’s verdict sends that message.
 
But it is not enough.  We can’t stop here.

In order to deliver real change and reform, we can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen and occur again; to ensure that Black and brown people or anyone — so they don’t fear the interactions with law enforcement, that they don’t have to wake up knowing that they can lose their very life in the course of just living their life.  They don’t have to worry about whether their sons or daughters will come home after a grocery store run or just walking down the street or driving their car or playing in the park or just sleeping at home.

And this takes acknowledging and confronting, head on, systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing and in our criminal justice system more broadly. 

You know, state and local government and law enforcement needs to step up, but so does the federal government.  That’s why I have appointed the leadership at the Justice Department that I have, that is fully committed to restoring trust between law enforcement and the community they are sworn to serve and protect.  I have complete confidence in the Attorney General — General Garland’s leadership and commitment. 

I have also nominated two key Justice Department nominees — Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke — who are eminently qualified, highly respected lawyers who have spent their entire careers fighting to advance racial equity and justice. 

Vanita and Kristen have the experience and the skill necessary to advance our administration’s priorities to root out unconstitutional policing and reform our criminal justice system, and they deserve to be confirmed. 

We also need Congress to act.  George Floyd was murdered almost a year ago.  There’s meaningful police reform legislation in his name.  You just heard the Vice President speak of it.  She helped write it.  Legislation to tackle systemic misconduct in police departments, to restore trust between law enforcement and the people that are entrusted to serve and protect.  But it shouldn’t take a whole year to get this done.

In my conversations with the Floyd family — and I spoke with them again today — I assured them that we’re going to continue to fight for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act so we can — I can sign it into law as quickly as possible.  And there’s more to do. 

Finally, it’s the work we do every day to change hearts and minds as well as laws and policies — that’s the work we have to do.  Only then will full justice and full equality be delivered to all Americans.  And that’s what I just discussed with the Floyd family. 

The guilty verdict does not bring back George.  But through the family’s pain, they are finding purpose so George’s legacy will not be just about his death, but about what we must do in his memory.

I also spoke to Gianna — George’s (inaudible) — George’s young daughter, again.  When I met her last year — I’ve said this before — at George’s funeral, I told her how brave I thought she was.  And I, sort of, knelt down to hold her hand.  I said, “Daddy’s looking down on you.  He’s so proud.”  She said to me then — I’ll never forget it — “Daddy changed the world.”

Well, I told her this afternoon, “Daddy did change the world.”  Let that be his legacy: a legacy of peace, not violence — of justice. 

Peaceful expression of that legacy are inevitable and appropriate, but violent protest is not.  And there are those who will seek to exploit the raw emotions of the moment — agitators and extremists who have no interest in social justice; who seek to carry out violence, destroy property, to fan the flames of hate and division; who will do everything in their power to stop this country’s march toward racial justice.  We can’t let them succeed.
 
This is the time for this country to come together, to unite as Americans.  There can never be any safe harbor for hate in America.

I’ve said it many times: The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years — a tug of war between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.

At our best, the American ideal wins out.  So we can’t leave this moment or look away, thinking our work is done.  We have to look at it as we did for those 9 minutes and 29 seconds.  We have to listen.  “I can’t breathe.  I can’t breathe.”  Those were George Floyd’s last words.  We can’t let those words die with him.  We have to keep hearing those words.

We must not turn away.  We can’t turn away.  We have a chance to begin to change the trajectory in this country.  It’s my hope and prayer that we live up to the legacy.

May God bless you.  And may God bless the — George Floyd and his family.

Thank you for taking the time to be here.  This can be a moment of significant change. 

Biden: ‘I want a safe America… Donald Trump looks at this violence and sees a political lifeline’

Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic candidate for president, spoke out against violence that has erupted out of peaceful protests against racial injustice and police brutality, which Donald Trump has stoked, inflamed, ignited seeing violence as the deflection to rising angst over his failure to contain COVID-19, which is killing 1,000 people a day, or improve the economic hardship most Americans are experiencing because of the public health crisis: “Ask yourself: Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” Biden said.“I want a safe America – safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops. And let’s be crystal clear: Safe from four more years of Donald Trump.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president, spoke out against violence that has erupted out of peaceful protests against racial injustice and police brutality, which Donald Trump has stoked, inflamed, ignited seeing violence as the deflection to rising angst over his failure to contain COVID-19, which is killing 1,000 people a day, or improve the economic hardship most Americans are experiencing because of the public health crisis.

“Ask yourself: Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” Biden said.
 
“I want a safe America – safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops.
 
“And let’s be crystal clear: Safe from four more years of Donald Trump.
 
“I look at this violence and I see lives and communities and the dreams of small businesses being destroyed and the opportunity for real progress on the issues of race and police reform and justice being put to the test.
 
“Donald Trump looks at this violence and sees a political lifeline.”

These  are Biden’s remarks, highlighted, delivered in Pittsburgh on Monday, August 31:

In the early days of World War II, Franklin Roosevelt told the country, “The news is going to get worse and worse before it gets better and better, and the American people deserve to have it straight from the shoulder.”
 
Straight from the shoulder: The job of a President is to tell the truth. To be candid. To face facts. To lead, not to incite. That’s why I am speaking to you today. The incumbent President is incapable of telling us the truth. Incapable of facing facts. Incapable of healing.
 
He doesn’t want to shed light. He wants to generate heat. He’s stoking violence in our cities. That is the tragic fact of the matter about this perilous hour in our nation. And now – we must stand against violence – in every form it takes.
The violence we’ve seen again and again and again of unwarranted police shootings and excessive force.
 
Seven bullets in the back of Jacob Blake. A knee on the neck of George Floyd. The killing of Breonna Taylor – in her own apartment.
 
The violence of extremists and opportunists – right-wing militias, white supremacists, vigilantes – who infiltrate protests carrying weapons of war, hoping to wreak havoc, and to derail any hope and support for progress.
 
The senseless violence of looting and burning and destruction of property.
 
I want to be clear about this: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting.
 
None of this is protesting – it’s lawlessness – plain and simple.
 
And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change, only destruction. It’s wrong in every way. It divides instead of unites.
 
Destroying businesses only hurts hard working families that serve the community. It makes things worse, not better.
 
It is not what Dr. King or John Lewis taught. It must end.
 
The fires are burning – and we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting them.
 
But we must not burn. We must build.
 
This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can’t stop the violence – because for years he has fomented it.
 
He may believe mouthing the words law and order makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows you how weak he is.
 
Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?
 
We need justice in America. And we need safety in America.
 
We are facing multiple crises – crises that, under Donald Trump, keep multiplying.
 
COVID.
 
Economic devastation.
 
Unwarranted police violence.
 
Emboldened white nationalists.
 
A reckoning on race.
 
Declining faith in a bright American future.
 
The common thread?
 
An incumbent president who makes things worse, not better.
 
An incumbent president who sows chaos rather than providing order.
 
An incumbent president who fails in the basic duty of the job: to advance the truths that all of us are born with a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
 
That’s right: all of us.
 
The moms and dads in Scranton where I grew up – who have worked and scrapped for everything they’ve ever gotten in life.
 
The auto worker in Michigan – who still makes the best car in the world.
 
The single mom in Ohio working three jobs just to stay afloat – who will do anything for her child.
 
The retired veteran in Florida who gave everything he had to this country – and now just wants us to honor the promises we made to him.
 
The Lord and Taylor salesperson who just lost their job – the store closing after 194 years in business.
 
The nurses and doctors in Wisconsin who have seen so much sickness and so much death the past six months they wonder how much more they can take, but still they muster up the courage to take care of their patients in this pandemic and risk their lives.
 
The researcher in Minnesota who woke up this morning determined to find a breakthrough in treating cancer – who will do the same thing tomorrow and the day after and the day after – because she will never give up.
 
White, Black, Latino, Asian-American, Native American. Everybody.
 
I’m in this campaign for you, no matter your color, no matter your Zip Code. No matter your politics.

When I think about the presidency, I don’t think about myself.
 
This isn’t about my brand.
 
This is about you.
 
We can do better.
 
We must do better.
 
And I promise this: We will do better.
 
The road back begins now, in this campaign. You know me. You know my heart, and you know my story, my family’s story.
 
Ask yourself: Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?
 
I want a safe America – safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops.
 
And let’s be crystal clear: Safe from four more years of Donald Trump.
 
I look at this violence and I see lives and communities and the dreams of small businesses being destroyed and the opportunity for real progress on the issues of race and police reform and justice being put to the test.
 
Donald Trump looks at this violence and sees a political lifeline.
 
Having failed to protect this nation from a virus that has killed more than 180,000 Americans, Trump posts all cap tweets screaming Law and Order to save his campaign.
 
One of his closest political advisors in the White House doesn’t even bother to speak in code. She just comes out and says it: “The more chaos…and violence…the better it is” for Trump’s reelection.
 
Think about that.
 
This is a sitting President of the United States. He’s supposed to be protecting this country. But instead he’s rooting for chaos and violence.
 
The simple truth is Donald Trump failed to protect America. So now, he’s trying to scare America.
 
Since Donald Trump and Mike Pence can’t run on their record that has seen more American deaths to a virus than this nation suffered in every war since Korea combined…
 
Since they can’t run on their economy that has seen more people lose their jobs than at any time since the Great Depression…
 
Since they can’t run on the simple proposition of sending our children safely back to school…
 
And since they have no agenda or vision for a second term Trump and Pence are running on this:
 
“You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America”.
 
And what’s their proof? The violence you’re seeing in Donald Trump’s America.
 
These are not images from some imagined “Joe Biden’s America” in the future.
 
These are images from Donald Trump’s America today.
 
He keeps telling you if only he was president it wouldn’t happen.
 
He keeps telling us if he was president you would feel safe.
 
Well – he is president. And it is happening. And you don’t.
 
And it’s getting worse. And we know why. Because Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire.
 
Because he refuses to even acknowledge there is a racial justice problem in America.
 
Because he won’t stand up to any form of violence.
 
He’s got no problem with the right-wing militias and white supremacists and vigilantes with assault weapons – often better armed than the police, often in the middle of the violence – at these protests.
 
And because tens of millions of Americans simply don’t trust this president to respect their rights, to hear their concerns, or to protect them.
 
It doesn’t have to be this way.
 
When President Obama and I were in the White House, and had to defend federal property,
you didn’t see us whipping up fears around the deployment of secret federal troops.
 
We just did our job. And the federal property was protected.
 
When President Obama and I were in office, we didn’t look at cities as Democratic- or Republican-run. These are American cities.
 
But Trump doesn’t see himself as a president for all of America.
 
Frankly, I believe if I were president today, the country would be safer and we would be seeing less violence. And here’s why.
 
I have said we must address the issue of racial injustice.
I have personally spoken to George Floyd’s family and Jacob Blake’s family. I know their pain, I know the justice they seek. They have told us none of this violence respects or honors George or Jacob.
 
I believe I can bring those fighting for racial justice to the table. I have worked with the police in this country for over forty years. I know most cops are good and decent people. I know the risk they take every day with their lives. And I am confident I can bring the police to the table.
 
I would make sure every mayor and governor had the support they needed from the federal government – but I wouldn’t be looking to use the United States military against our own people.
 
If I were president, my language would be less divisive. I would be looking to lower the temperature in the country – not raise it. And I would be looking to unite the nation.
 
But, look, if Donald Trump wants to ask the question: Who will keep you safer as President? Let’s answer it.
 
First, some simple facts.
 
When I was Vice President, violent crime fell 15% in this country. We did it without chaos and disorder. And yes we did it with Democrats as mayors of most big cities in this country.
 
The murder rate is up 26% in cities across the nation this year under Donald Trump.
 
Do you feel really safer under Trump?
 
COVID has taken more lives this year than any outbreak in more than 100 years. More than 180,000 lives in just six months. An average of 1,000 people dying every day in the month of August.
 
Do you feel really safer under Trump?
 
Mr. Trump – you want to talk about fear? Do you know what people are afraid of in America?
 
They’re afraid they’re going to get COVID. They’re afraid they’re going to get sick and die. And that in no small part is because of you.
 
We are now on track for more than 200,000 deaths in this country due to COVID.
 
More than 100,000 seniors have lost their life to the virus. More cops have died from COVID this year than have been killed on patrol. Nearly one in six small businesses is closed in this country today.
 
Do you really feel safer under Trump?
 
What about Trump’s plan to destroy the Affordable Care Act – and with it the protections for pre-existing conditions. That impacts more than 100 million Americans.
 
Does that make you feel safer?
 
Or how about Trump’s plan to defund Social Security.
 
The Social Security Administration’s chief actuary just released a report saying if a plan like the one Trump is proposing goes into effect, the Social Security Trust Fund would be, quote, “permanently depleted by the middle of calendar year 2023, with no ability to pay benefits thereafter.” To put it plainly, Social Security would be wiped out.
 
Feel safer now?
 
And the fear that reigns under this president doesn’t stop at our shores.
 
The Kremlin has put bounties on the heads of American soldiers.
 
And instead of telling Vladimir Putin that there will be a heavy price to pay if they dare touch an American soldier – this president doesn’t even bring up the subject in a phone call.
 
Russian forces just attacked American troops in Syria, injuring our service members. The president didn’t say a word. He didn’t lift a finger.
 
Never before has an American president played such a subservient role to a Russian leader.
 
It’s not only dangerous – it’s an embarrassment.
 
Not even America’s troops can feel safer under Trump.
 
Donald Trump’s role as a bystander in his own presidency extends to the economic pain being felt by millions of Americans.
 
He said this weekend, “You better vote for me or you are going to have the greatest depression you’ve ever seen.”
 
Does he not see the tens of millions who had to file for unemployment this year? The folks who won’t be able to make next month’s rent? The folks who lost wages while the cost of food staples rose dramatically?
 
Barack Obama and I stopped a depression in 2009. We took a bad economy and turned it around.
 
Donald Trump took a good economy and drove it into the ditch. Through his failure to get COVID under control, his failure to pull together the leaders in Congress, his failure to deliver real relief for working people — has made our country’s economic situation so much worse than it had to be.
 
When we talk about safety, and security, we should also talk about the basic security of being able to look your kid in the eye and tell them everything is going to be okay. We won’t lose our home. We’ll be able to put food on the table.
 
I’ve laid out an agenda for economic recovery that will restore a sense of security for working families. And we won’t just build things back the way they were before. We’re going to build back better.
 
With good-paying jobs building our nation’s roads, bridges, solar arrays and windmills. With investments in our health care and child care workers so they get the pay and dignity they deserve, while easing the financial burdens for millions of families. With a clean energy strategy that has a place for the energy workers right here in western Pennsylvania. I’m not for banning fracking. Let’s say that again. I’m not for banning fracking – no matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me.
 
The future. That’s what this is all about.
 
We all hear Donald Trump’s self-centered rants and riffs, but the voice America should hear is Julia Jackson’s – the mother of Jacob Blake.
 
Hers is a voice of courage and character and wisdom.
 
In looking at the damage that had been done in her city she said, “the violence and destruction” didn’t “reflect my son or my family.”
 
These are the words of a mother whose son had just been shot seven times in front of his children. Badly injured. Paralyzed, perhaps permanently.
 
And even as she seeks justice for her son – she is pleading for an end to the violence – and for this nation to heal.
 
She said she was praying for her son. She said she was praying for all police officers. She said she had already been praying for America, even before her son was shot.
 
She asked us all to examine our hearts – citizens, elected officials, the police – all of us.
 
And then she said this, “We need healing.”
 
More than anything, that is what we need to do as a nation:
We need to heal.
 
The current president wants you to live in fear. He advertises himself as a figure of order.
 
He isn’t. He is not part of the solution. He is part of the problem. The biggest part.
 
A problem that I, as President, will give my all to resolve.
 
I will deal with the virus. I will deal with the economic crisis. I will work to bring equity and opportunity to all.
 
We have arrived at the moment in this campaign that we all knew we would get to. The moment when Donald Trump would be so desperate, he would do anything to hold on to power.
 
Donald Trump has been a toxic presence in our nation for four years.
 
Poisoning how we talk to one another. Poisoning how we treat one another. Poisoning the values this nation has always held dear. Poisoning to our democracy.
 
Now – in just a little over 60 days – we have a decision to make:
 
Will we rid ourselves of this toxin? Or will we make it a permanent part of our national character?
 
As Americans we believe in Honesty and Decency. Treating everyone with dignity and respect. Giving everyone a fair shot. Leaving no one behind. Giving hate no safe harbor. Demonizing no one. Being part of something bigger than ourselves.
 
Donald Trump doesn’t believe in any of that.
 
America is an idea.
 
It is the most powerful idea in the history of the world – and it beats in the hearts of the people of this country:
 
All men and women are created equal – and they deserve to be treated equally.
 
Trump has sought to remake this nation in his image – selfish, angry, dark, divisive.
 
That is not who we are.
 
At her best, America has always been – and if I have anything to do with it – always will be a generous, confident, optimistic nation.
 
Donald Trump is determined to instill fear in America – that is what his entire campaign for presidency has come down to.
 
Fear.
 
But I believe Americans are stronger than that.
 
I believe we will be guided by the words of Pope John Paul II. Words drawn from Scripture: “Be not afraid”.
 
Fear never builds the future. Hope does. And building the future is what America does.
 
In fact, it’s what we do best.
 
This is the United States of America. And there is nothing we haven’t been able to do, when we’ve done it together.
 
Thank you. May God bless you. And may God protect our troops.

Biden Bursts Trump’s Bubble Over Jobs Report: ‘The public health crisis, job crisis, and crisis of inequity and indignity are connected’

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, delivered remarks on the economy and the May jobs report which unexpectedly showed 2.5 million jobs added and an unemployment rate dipping slightly to 13.3%, instead of rising to as much as 20%.  (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, delivered remarks on the economy and the May jobs report which unexpectedly showed 2.5 million jobs added and an unemployment rate dipping slightly to 13.3%, instead of rising to as much as 20%. But that 2.5 million jobs reflects the fact that states have begun reopening; there were 40 million people who have filed for unemployment, so an unimaginable 37 million are still without jobs. And 13.3% is still higher than at any time during the 2008 Great Recession. Moreover, the Trump administration apparently changed the way certain numbers are calculated, so the actual unemployment rate could be 3 points higher, or 16.3%, which would be closer to what economists forecast. Trump also manages to ignore the fact that the stimulus program pushed by Democrats over Republicans’ objections, worked to keep the economy from descending into a Great Depression. He also ignored the disproportionate unemployment rates among Blacks and Hispanics, groups that are also suffering disproportionately from COVID-19. But Trump is desperate to put a rosy face on an economy while ignoring the fact the coronavirus pandemic is still spreading and his administration has done virtually nothing to provide a national program for testing, tracing and isolating, nor even set standards for workplaces and schools only some tepid guidelines. And Trump was desperate to shift attention from his Fascistic overreach of using military power used against peaceful protesters calling for an end to race-based police brutality.

Instead, Vice President Biden took Trump to task and offered his own analysis of the depth of harm to the economy and public health caused by Trump’s failure of leadership and his preoccupation with Wall Street over Main Street, wealth over wages.

Here is a transcript of Biden’s remarks: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 Good afternoon.

Before I speak to the economic situation, I have to take a moment to address something the President said this morning.

Toward the end of his remarks today, Donald Trump said he hopes that George Floyd “is looking down and seeing this is a great day for our country.”

He was speaking of a man who was brutally killed by an act of needless violence — and by a larger tide of injustice — that has metastasized on this President’s watch.

George Floyd’s last words — “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” — have echoed across our nation.

For the President to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd — is frankly despicable.

And, the fact that he did so on a day when Black unemployment rose and black youth unemployment skyrocketed — tells you everything you need to know about who this man is and what he cares about.


Today, like all Americans, I was glad to see that two-and-a-half million Americans have gotten their jobs back.

For those families, that’s a sigh of relief.

And for all of us, it’s a reminder of the resilience of the American people.

To those Americans, I’m so proud of you, and so happy for you and your families.

I was disturbed, however, to see the President crowing this morning — basically hanging a “mission accomplished”’ banner when there is so much work to be done — and so many Americans are still hurting.

More than twenty million Americans — one out of every seven U.S. workers — are still out of work.


For an enormous swath of our country, their dreams are still on hold. They are still struggling to put food on the table. The unemployment rate remains the highest it’s been in nearly a century.

As I said, Black unemployment went up this month. Latino youth unemployment jumped to over 37 percent. Hispanic unemployment overall is four times higher than it was before the President botched his response to the pandemic. And I’m worried, when you look deeper at the data, that while temporary layoffs went down,permanent layoffs went up.

Donald Trump still doesn’t get it.


He’s out there spiking the football — completely oblivious to the tens of millions of people who are facing the greatest struggle of their lives. Those folks aren’t feeling any less pain today than they were yesterday.

People who’ve lost their health care in this crisis, they’re not celebrating today — especially when Donald Trump is still in court fighting to strip away health care protections from even more Americans. 

The fact is, there are about 13 million less jobs today for American workers than the day that President Obama and I left office.


So while it’s wonderful to see ten percent of the families who lost their jobs due to Trump’s disastrous pandemic response start to make their way back — the President’s behavior makes me deeply worried for the 90 percent who haven’t.

So to all those families — who are scared, and hurting, and wondering what’s going to happen next: I want you to know I see you. I won’t ever forget you. And I won’t be satisfied – until this economy starts working for all of you.

Let’s be clear about something. The depth of this job crisis is not attributable to an act of God — but to the failure of a President. The truth is every country dealt with job losses due to the pandemic, but America was hit much harder out of the gate due to Trump’s complete mismanagement of the response.

This morning, he tried to compare our response to Germany’s and South Korea’s.

Okay, let’s compare. Germany has one-third of the deaths per capita that we do. South Korea has less than 300 deaths — total. America has four percent of the world’s population — and more than a quarter of the world’s deaths from this pandemic.

It’s no secret why that is.

Let’s get something straight: he did not act quickly. 

For months, he downplayed the threat — falsely promising us that anyone could get a test — and claiming that “like a miracle it will disappear.”

He repeatedly praised China’s containment response – despite a litany of public appeals — including from me — not to bet American lives and the U.S. economy on the word of the Chinese government.

He refused to take action to get adequate testing in place — allowing the virus to spread further than it should have.

Columbia University found that 54,000 lives could have been saved if the administration had acted just two weeks earlier.

His failure didn’t just cost lives. It cost jobs.

New studies this week from Moody’s and Brookings confirm that half or more of those who lost their jobs would still be employed had Trump mounted a competent response like Germany and South Korea and other countries did.

We know why this happened. Donald Trump was more focused on the stock wealth of the biggest corporations than he was on the well-being of the American people.

It’s why he had his top economic advisors telling people to buy stocks instead of preparing our nation to brace for the pandemic. 

Now — after 110,000 deaths and more than 20 million people still out of work — the consequences are clear.

We are still facing devastating unemployment, an historic health crisis, and a continuing crisis of violence, injustice, and indignity that is devastating Black Americans and diminishing the soul of our country.

These are some of the sternest challenges our nation has ever faced, and Trump is patting himself on the back. 

He just has no idea what’s really going on in this country. He has no idea the depth of pain that people are facing. He remains completely oblivious to the human toll of his indifference. It is time for him to step out of his bunker and take a look around at the consequences of his words and actions.


Let’s be clear — a president who takes no responsibility for costing millions and millions of Americans their jobs deserves no credit when a fraction of them return. 

But there’s a deeper concern here. As we recover, some of the temporary job losses we are still not on track to grow back in a way that will actually serve working people.

President Trump is still rewarding wealth over work.

All we hear coming out of the White House is calls for more tax cuts for big investors and big corporations. Well, they didn’t build this country. The middle class did — that’s who I fight for.

And if Trump continues to put the interests of CEOs and shareholders ahead of American workers, we’ll never get to where we need to be as a country.

Look, every American has a choice to make this November. Not simply what kind of President we want , but what kind of country we want. What kind of economy we want — and who that economy serves.

In the coming weeks, I will lay out in detail my comprehensive plan— not just to build things back to the way they were before COVID-19, but to build back better.

To create millions of new, good-paying jobs with benefits where people get a fair return for work and we make our country stronger, more resilient, and more just.

That plan will be anchored in job-creating investments, in small businesses, infrastructure – innovation, manufacturing, and caregiving, and in rewiring the faulty structures of our economy to ensure the dignity and equity of all American workers.

The public health crisis, the job crisis, and the crisis of inequity and indignity being endured by African Americans — those three challenges are deeply connected to one another.

The solutions must be, as well.


Any economic plan must start with a public health plan to make sure tests are available, to get our society functioning, to build back the confidence we need to truly bring back jobs and small businesses.

But that is only the first step.

My jobs plan will also be about restoring dignity to the American people.

In addition to pursuing badly-needed reforms, we need to be growing wages, leveling the playing field, and creating tens of millions of the new jobs we need to build a better American future.

There is a monumental amount of work to do to repair the damage that has been done. And simply tweeting slogans like “transition to greatness” won’t solve anything for families who are hurting.

I look forward to introducing and implementing a real jobs plan that will meet this challenging moment.

Americans can’t afford to have any more of their time wasted.

They need an economy that works for them — now.

They need jobs that bring dignity — now.

They need equal justice — and equal opportunities — now.

They need a president who cares about them, and cares about helping them heal — now.

Thank you.

God bless you — and may God protect our troops.

Amid national protests over police brutality, Trump calling out military against protesters, Biden declares ‘The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism’

VP Joe Biden declares, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.” (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Amid national protests over police brutality and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Donald Trump calling out the military against peaceful protesters outside the White House, VP Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, declares, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.

“We are a nation in pain,” Biden declared. “but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us. 

“As President, it is my commitment to all of you to lead on these issues — to listen. Because I truly believe in my heart of hearts, that we can overcome. And when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before.”

Here is a transcript of Vice President Joe Biden’s speech delivered from the Mayor’s Reception Room in Philadelphia City Hall in front of an audience that included Mayor Jim Kenney, Congressman Brendan Boyle, and state and local elected officials.:

“I can’t breathe.” “I can’t breathe.”
 
George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation.
 
They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk.
 
They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus – and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment – with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in black and brown communities.
 
And they speak to a nation where every day millions of people – not at the moment of losing their life – but in the course of living their life – are saying to themselves, “I can’t breathe.”
 
It’s a wake-up call for our nation. For all of us.
 
And I mean all of us. It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words – they’re the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken six years ago.
 
But it’s time to listen to these words. Understand them. And respond to them – with real action.
 
The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us.  Leadership that can bring us together. Leadership that can recognize the pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for too long.
 
But there is no place for violence.
 
No place for looting or destroying property or burning churches, or destroying businesses — many of them built by people of color who for the first time were beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families.
 
Nor is it acceptable for our police — sworn to protect and serve all people — to escalate tensions or resort to excessive violence.
 
We need to distinguish between legitimate peaceful protest — and opportunistic violent destruction.

And we must be vigilant about the violence that’s being done by the incumbent president to our democracy and to the pursuit of justice.
 
When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the President from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle.
 
More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care.
 
For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us.
 
The President held up a bible at St. John’s church yesterday. 

If he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something: That we are all called to love one another as we love ourselves.
 
That’s hard work. But it’s the work of America.
 
Donald Trump isn’t interested in doing that work.

Instead he’s preening and sweeping away all the guardrails that have long protected our democracy.
 
Guardrails that have helped make possible this nation’s path to a more perfect union.
 
A union that constantly requires reform and rededication – and yes the protests from voices of those mistreated, ignored, left out and left behind.
 
But it’s a union worth fighting for and that’s why I’m running for President.
 
In addition to the Bible, he might also want to open the U.S. Constitution.
 
If he did, he’d find the First Amendment. It protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
 
Mr. President: That is America.
 
Not horses rising up on their hind legs to push back a peaceful protest. Not using the American military to move against the American people. This nation is a nation of values. Our freedom to speak is the cherished knowledge that lives inside every American.
 
We will not allow any President to quiet our voice. 
 
We won’t let those who see this as an opportunity to sow chaos throw up a smokescreen to distract us from the very real and legitimate grievances at the heart of these protests. 

And we can’t leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away and do nothing. We can’t.
 
The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.
 
I’ve said from the outset of this election that we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. Who we are. What we believe. And maybe most important — who we want to be.
 
It’s all at stake. That is truer today than ever. And it’s in this urgency we can find the path forward.
 
The history of this nation teaches us that it’s in some of our darkest moments of despair that we’ve made some of our greatest progress.
 
The 13th and 14th and 15th Amendments followed the Civil War. The greatest economy in the history of the world grew out of the Great Depression. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 came in the tracks of Bull Connor’s vicious dogs.
 
To paraphrase Reverend Barber — it’s in the mourning we find hope. 

It will take more than talk. We’ve had talk before. We’ve had protests before. 

Let us vow to make this, at last, an era of action to reverse systemic racism with long overdue and concrete changes.
 
That action will not be completed in the first 100 days of my Presidency — or even an entire term.
 
It is the work of a generation.
 
But if this agenda will take time to complete, it should not wait for the first 100 days of my Presidency to get started.
 
A down payment on what is long overdue should come now. Immediately.
 
I call on Congress to act this month on measures that would be a first step in this direction. Starting with real police reform.
 
Congressman Jeffries has a bill to outlaw choke holds. Congress should put it on President Trump’s desk in the next few days.
 
There are other measures: to stop transferring weapons of war to police forces, to improve oversight and accountability, to create a model use of force standard — that also should be made law this month. 
 
No more excuses. No more delays. 
 
If the Senate has time to confirm Trump’s unqualified judicial nominees who will run roughshod over our Constitution, it has time to pass legislation that will give true meaning to our Constitution’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.”
 
Looking ahead, in the first 100 days of my presidency, I have committed to creating a national police oversight commission.
 
I’ve long believed we need real community policing.
 
And we need each and every police department in the country to undertake a comprehensive review of their hiring, their training, and their de-escalation practices.
 
And the federal government should give them the tools and resources they need to implement reforms.
 
Most cops meet the highest standards of their profession. All the more reason that bad cops should be dealt with severely and swiftly. We all need to take a hard look at the culture that allows for these senseless tragedies to keep happening. 
 
And we need to learn from the cities and precincts that are getting it right.
 
We know, though, that to have true justice in America, we need economic justice, too.
 
Here, too, there is much to be done.

As an immediate step, Congress should act to rectify racial inequities in the allocation of COVID-19 recovery funds. 
 
I will be setting forth more of my agenda on economic justice and opportunity in the weeks and months ahead.
 
But it begins with health care. It should be a right not a privilege. The quickest route to universal coverage in this country is to expand Obamacare.
 
We could do it. We should do it.
 
But this president — even now — in the midst of a public health crisis with massive unemployment wants to destroy it.
 
He doesn’t care how many millions of Americans will be hurt— because he is consumed with his blinding ego when it comes to President Obama.
 
The President should withdraw his lawsuit to strike down Obamacare, and the Congress should prepare to act on my proposal to expand Obamacare to millions more.
 
These last few months we have seen America’s true heroes. The health care workers, the nurses, delivery truck drivers, grocery store workers.

We have a new phrase for them: Essential workers.
 
But we need to do more than praise them. We need to pay them.
 
Because if it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now. This country wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers and CEOs. It was built by America’s great middle class — by our essential workers.
 
I know there is enormous fear and uncertainty and anger in the country. I understand.
 
And I know so many Americans are suffering. Suffering the loss of a loved one. Suffering economic hardships. Suffering under the weight of generation after generation after generation of hurt inflicted on people of color — and on black and Native communities in particular.
 
I know what it means to grieve. My losses are not the same as the losses felt by so many. But I know what it is to feel like you cannot go on.
 
I know what it means to have a black hole of grief sucking at your chest.
 
Just a few days ago marked the fifth anniversary of my son Beau’s passing from cancer. There are still moments when the pain is so great it feels no different from the day he died. But I also know that the best way to bear loss and pain is to turn all that anger and anguish to purpose.
 
And, Americans know what our purpose is as a nation. It has guided us from the very beginning.
 
It’s been reported. That on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, little Yolanda King came home from school in Atlanta and jumped in her father’s arms.
 
“Oh, Daddy,” she said, “now we will never get our freedom.”
 
Her daddy was reassuring, strong, and brave.
 
“Now don’t you worry, baby,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. “It’s going to be all right.”
 
Amid violence and fear, Dr. King persevered.

He was driven by his dream of a nation where “justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
 
Then, in 1968 hate would cut him down in Memphis.
 
A few days before Dr. King was murdered, he gave a final Sunday sermon in Washington.
 
He told us that though the arc of a moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.
 
And we know we can bend it — because we have. We have to believe that still. That is our purpose. It’s been our purpose from the beginning.

To become the nation where all men and women are not only created equal — but treated equally.
 
To become the nation defined — in Dr. King’s words — not only by the absence of tension, but by the presence of justice.
 
Today in America it’s hard to keep faith that justice is at hand. I know that. You know that.
 
The pain is raw. The pain is real.
 
A president of the United States must be part of the solution, not the problem. But our president today is part of the problem.
 
When he tweeted the words “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” – those weren’t the words of a president. They were the words of a racist Miami police chief from the 1960s.
 
When he tweeted that protesters “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs … that’s when people would have been really badly hurt.” Those weren’t the words of a president — those were the kind of words a Bull Connor would have used unleashing his dogs.
 
The American story is about action and reaction. That’s the way history works. We can’t be naïve about that.
 
I wish I could say this hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn’t and it won’t. American history isn’t a fairytale with a guaranteed happy ending.

The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push-and-pull for more than 240 years.
 
A tug of war between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart. The honest truth is both elements are part of the American character.
 
At our best, the American ideal wins out.
 
It’s never a rout. It’s always a fight. And the battle is never finally won.
 
But we can’t ignore the truth that we are at our best when we open our hearts, not when we clench our fists. Donald Trump has turned our country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears.
 
He thinks division helps him.
 
His narcissism has become more important than the nation’s well-being he leads.
 
I ask every American to look at where we are now, and think anew: Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we pass on to our kids’ and grandkids’ lives? Fear and finger-pointing rather than hope and the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety? Self-absorption and selfishness?
 
Or do we want to be the America we know we can be. The America we know in our hearts we could be and should be.
 
Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won’t either.
 
But I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate.
 
I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain.
 
I’ll do my job and take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I’ll never forget that the job isn’t about me.
 
It’s about you.
 
And I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation. But to build it better than it was.
 
To build a better future. That’s what America does.
 
We build the future. It may in fact be the most American thing to do.
 
We hunger for liberty the way Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass did.
 
We thirst for the vote the way Susan B. Anthony and Ella Baker and John Lewis did. We strive to explore the stars, to cure disease, to make this imperfect Union as perfect as we can.
 
We may come up short — but at our best we try.
 
We are facing formidable enemies.
 
They include not only the coronavirus and its terrible impact on our lives and livelihoods, but also the selfishness and fear that have loomed over our national life for the last three years.
 
Defeating those enemies requires us to do our duty — and that duty includes remembering who we should be.

We should be the America of FDR and Eisenhower, of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., of Jonas Salk and Neil Armstrong.
 
We should be the America that cherishes life and liberty and courage.
 
Above all, we should be the America that cherishes each other – each and every one.
 
We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us.
 
As President, it is my commitment to all of you to lead on these issues — to listen. Because I truly believe in my heart of hearts, that we can overcome. And when we stand together, finally, as One America, we will rise stronger than before.
 
So reach out to one another. Speak out for one another. And please, please take care of each other.
 
This is the United States of America. And there is nothing we can’t do. If we do it together.

Cuomo Proposes Reform Agenda to End Police Brutality, Systemic Racism, Tells Protesters ‘Use Moment Constructively’

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a national agenda to end systemic racism in law enforcement, end police brutality. “Use this moment. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a positive reform agenda to address systemic racism and police brutality amidst the ongoing protests across the state and nation in response to the killing of George Floyd. The reform agenda includes a national ban on excessive force and chokeholds by law enforcement officers; independent investigations of police brutality conducted by independent, outside agencies – not by local prosecutors; and disclosure of disciplinary records of police officers being investigated.

While standing firmly in support of the protests against police brutality, the Governor said that protest for its own sake would only work against the cause, but that there needs to be a clearly defined list of actions that need to be articulated.

“You want to make that moment work,” he declared. “Yes, you express the outrage. But then you say, ‘Here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.’ That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protesters are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse.”

And Cuomo also differentiated between the those who are exercising their Constitutional First Amendment right to protest against those who are taking advantage to loot and vandalize, giving Trump the opportunity to deflect and discount, and shift focus to himself as the “law-and-order” strongman. Indeed, there are reports that White Nationalist group is posing as Antifa on Twitter, calling for violence. Trump is proposing to designate Antifa a terrorist group, and is using them to justify calling out military against protesters – which would be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

“There’s no doubt that what the President’s trying to do here is turn the attention to the looters rather than the point of the protest, which is genuine outrage,” Cuomo said in an interview with Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC. “”You look at what happened with Mr. Floyd, you have to be outraged. It’s not just Mr. Floyd in an isolated situation, it’s been years and years of the same situation. You can go back to Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner – it’s a long list.

They want to make this about looting and criminals rather than the killing. That’s what they’re trying to do. In New York, we did have large protests and we do have people who are, I think, exploiting the protest. There’s no doubt that there’s some people who came out and did looting and criminal activity. You have some disrupting organizations that are seizing upon the moment. We want to make sure that order is maintained and we’re putting in place a curfew.”

“Use this moment. You look in history, Nicolle, when did change come? Change came when the people insisted on change. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.”

Cuomo ordered a curfew of 11 pm in New York City, and doubled the number of police, from 4,000 to 8,000. However, that was not enough to stop a spate of acts of looting and vandalism.

The protests come just as New York City was hitting the milestones in the fight against COVID-19, which has taken more lives – and more disproportionately in communities of color – in the city and state than anywhere in the country or world. The  Governor said that if there was any “silver” lining in the timing, the protests are happening when the infection rate has been cut from 20 percent to 2 percent but still raised concerns of reigniting the spread of the pandemic.

Here is a transcript of Governor Cuomo’s remarks:

We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City. Now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could, in fact, exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masked, socially distanced and then you turn on the TV and you see there’s mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people. After everything that we have done. We have to talk a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?

We have protests across the state that continued last night, they continued across the nation. Upstate we worked with the cities very closely. The State Police did a great job. We had, basically, a few scattered arrests, upstate New York. But the local governments did a great job, the people did a great job, law enforcement did a great job. The protestors were responsible. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either, upstate.

I said from day one, I share the outrage and I stand with the protestors. You look at that video of the killing of an unarmed man, Mr. Floyd, it is horrendous. Horrendous. It’s frightening. It perverts everything you believe about this country. It does and there’s no excuse for it. No right minded American would make an excuse for it. So, protest yes. Be frustrated, yes. Outraged, yes of course. Is there a larger problem? Of course. It’s not just Mr. Floyd, it goes back – there are 50 cases that are just like Mr. Floyd. We’ve them here in New York City. What’s the difference between Mr. Floyd and Amadou Diallo? Or Abner Louima? Or Eric Garner? What is the difference? What have we learned? Nothing?

So, yes, we should be outraged. And yes, there’s a bigger point to make. It is abuse by police. But it’s something worse. It is racism. It is discrimination. It is fundamental inequality and injustice. My father spoke about it in 1984. The speech called “The Tale of Two Cities.” People still talk about it. The point of the tale of two cities is there’s two Americas. Two sets of rules. Two sets of outcomes. Two sets of expectations. It’s true. It was true then, it’s true now. Look at our prisons and tell me there’s not inherit injustice in society. Look at public housing, tell me there’s not inherent injustice.

Look at what happened with this COVID infection rate nationwide. More African Americans infected, more African Americans dead proportionally than white Americans. Of course, there’s chronic institutionalized discrimination. There is no doubt. There is no doubt. And there’s no doubt that it’s been going on for a long time and people are frustrated, and it has to be corrected and it has to be corrected now. And there’s no doubt, that this nation as great as it is has had the continuing sin of discrimination. From before the nation was formed and it started with slavery. And it has had different faces over the decades, but it’s still the same sin. That is true. That is true. So let’s use this moment as a moment of change? Yes.

When does change come? When the stars align and society focuses and the people focus, and they focus to such an extent that the politicians follow the people. That’s when change comes. “Well, the leaders lead!” Baloney. The people lead. And then the politicians see the people moving, and the politicians run to catch up with the people. How did we pass marriage equality in this State, giving a new civil right to the LGBTQ community? Because the people said, “enough is enough. How can you say only heterosexual people can marry, but the LGBTQ people— they can’t marry? How is that constitutional? How is that legal?” You have your own preference— God bless you. But how in the law, do you discriminate between two classes of people. We passed marriage equality.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, after all those years we tried to pass common sense gun safety. Do you really need an assault weapon to kill a deer? But then the Sandy Hook massacre happened, and the people said, “enough. You’re killing children? Young children in schools with an assault weapon? In the Sandy Hook massacre. Enough.”

And in that moment, we passed common sense gun safety in the State of New York. Record income inequality? People said, “enough” and passed a real minimum wage in this State that went all across the nation. There’s a moment for change, and is there a moment here? Yes. If we’re constructive and if we’re smart, and if we know what were asking for! It’s not enough to come out and say, “I’m angry, I’m frustrated.” OK. And what? “Well, I don’t know, but I’m angry and frustrated.”

And you want what done? You need the answer. “Well, I want common sense gun reform.” OK, what does it look like? Here it is— three points. “Well I want to address income inequality.” Well, what do you want? “Here’s what I want. Minimum wage at $15. Free college tuition.” What do you want?

You want to make that moment work. Yes, you express the outrage! But then you say, “here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.” That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protestors are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse. When you have the local District Attorney doing the investigations— I don’t care how good they are— there is the suggestion of a conflict of interest. Why? Because that DA works with that police department every day and now that prosecutor is going to do the investigation of that police department that they work with every day? Conflict of interests can be real or perceived. How can people believe that the local prosecutor who works with that police department is going to be fair in the investigation? It shouldn’t be state by state. Minnesota Governor Walz put the attorney general in charge. Good. In this state, I put attorney general in charge of investigations where police kill an unarmed person. Good. But it shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. There is no self-policing. There’s an allegation, independent investigation. Give people comfort that the investigation is real.

If a police officer is being investigated, how is there disciplinary records not relevant? Once a police officer is being investigated, if they have disciplinary records that show this was a repeat pattern, how is that not relevant? By the way, the disciplinary records can also be used to exonerate. If they have disciplinary records that say he never, she never did anything like this before, fine. That’s relevant too.

We still have two education systems in this country. Everybody knows it. Your education is decided by your zip code. Poorer schools in poorer communities have a different level of funding than richer schools in this state. $36,000 per year we spend in a rich district. $13,000 in a poor district. How do you justify that? If anything, the children in a poorer community need more services in a school, not less. How do you justify that? You can’t. Do something about it. You still have children living in poverty in this nation? Well, when we had to, we found a trillion dollars to handle the COVID virus, but you can’t find funding to help children who live in poverty? No, you can find it, United States. You just don’t want to. It’s political will. When you need to find the money, you can find it. Let’s be honest, the federal government has a printing press in their basement. When they have the political will, they find the money.

The federal government went out of the housing business and never re-entered it. We have a national affordable housing crisis. Of course you do. You don’t fund affordable housing. I’m the former HUD secretary. I know better than anyone what the federal government used to do in terms of affordable housing with Section 8 and building new public housing. And we just stopped, and we left it to the market. Now you have an affordable housing plan. That’s what we should be addressing in this moment. And we should be saying to our federal officials, “There’s an election this year, a few months away. Here’s my agenda. Where do you stand?” Say to the congress, the House and Senate, “Where’s your bill on this?”

I heard some congressional people talking saying well maybe they’ll do a resolution. Yeah, resolutions are nice. Resolutions say in theory I support this. Pass a law, that’s what we want. A law that actually changes the reality, where something actually happens. That’s government’s job is to actually make change. Make change. You’re in a position to make change. Make change. Use this moment to galvanize public support. Use that outrage to actually make the change. And have the intelligence to say what changes you actually want. Otherwise, it’s just screaming into the wind if you don’t know exactly what changes we need to make.

And we have to be smart in this moment. The violence in these protests obscures the righteousness of the message. The people who are exploiting the situation, the looting, that’s not protesting. That’s not righteous indignation. That’s criminality and it plays into the hands of the people and the forces that don’t want to make the changes in the first place because then they get to dismiss the entire effort. I will tell you what they’re going to say. They’re going to say the first thing the President said when this happened. They’re going to say “These are looters.” Remember when the President put out that incendiary tweet? “We start shooting when they start looting or they start looting, we start shooting?” That’s an old ’60s call. The violence, the looting, the criminality plays right into those people who don’t want progressive change. And you mark my words, they’re going to say today, “Oh you see, they’re criminals. They’re looters. Did you see what they did breaking the store windows and going in and stealing?” And they’re going to try to paint this whole protest movement that they’re all criminals, they’re all looters. That’s what they’re going to do. Why? They don’t want to talk about Mr. Floyd’s death. They don’t want people seeing that video. They want people seeing the video of the looting. And when people see the video of the looting they say “Oh yeah, that’s scary. They’re criminals.” No, look at the video of the police officer killing Mr. Floyd. That’s the video we want people watching.

Now, I don’t even believe it’s the protesters. I believe there are people who are using this moment and using the protest for their own purpose. There are people who want to sow the seeds of anarchy, who want to disrupt. By the way, there are people who want to steal. And here’s a moment that you can use this moment to steal. You can use this moment to spread chaos. I hear the same thing from all the local officials. They have people in their communities who are there to quote unquote protest. They’re not from their community. They don’t know where they’re from, extremist groups, some people are going to blame the left, some people will blame the right. It will become politicized. But there is no doubt there are outside groups that come in to disrupt. There is no doubt that there are people who just use this moment to steal. What, it’s a coincidence they broke into a Rolex watch company? That was a coincidence? High end stores, Chanel. That was a coincidence? That was random? That was not random. So, can you have a legitimate protest movement hijacked? Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And there are people and forces who will exploit that moment and I believe that’s happening.

But we still have to be smart. And at the same time, we have a fundamental issue which is we just spent 93 days limiting behavior, closing down, no school, no business, thousands of small businesses destroyed. People will have lost their jobs. People wiped out their savings. And now mass gatherings with thousands of people in close proximity one week before we’re going to reopen New York City? What sense does this make? Control the spread, control the spread, control the spread. We don’t even know the consequence for the COVID virus of those mass gatherings. We don’t even know. We won’t know possibly for weeks. It’s the nature of the virus. How many super-spreaders were in that crowd? “Well, they were mostly young people.” How many young people went home and kissed their mother hello or shook hands with their father or hugged their father or their grandfather or their brother or their mother or their sister and spread a virus?

New York City opens next week. Took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart? New York tough. We went from the worst situation to reopening. From the worst situation to 54 deaths in 50 days. We went from the worst situation to reopening in 93 days. We did that because we were New York tough. New York tough was smart. We were smart. We were smart for 93 days. We were united, we were respectful of each other. We were disciplined. Wearing the mask is just discipline, it’s just discipline. Remember to put it on, remember to pick it up, remembering to put it on when see someone, it’s just discipline.

It was also about love. We did it because we love one another. That’s what a community is. We love one another. And yes, you can be loving even in New York. Even with the New York toughness, even with a New York accent, even with a New York swagger. We’re loving. That’s what we’ve done for 93 days in a way we’ve never done it before. Never in my lifetime. Never in my lifetime has this city and this state come together in the way we have. I don’t think it ever will again, in my lifetime. Now you can say maybe it takes a global pandemic for it to happen. I don’t know if that’s true and I don’t know that the power of what it was like when it came together might not be so beautiful that people want to do it again.

Remember when we all acted together during coronavirus and we rallied and we knocked coronavirus on its rear end. Remember when we all wore masks and we had to have hand sanitizer? Remember what we did? Wow. When we come together, we can do anything and it’s true. It’s true for the state, it’s true for a nation. When you come together and you have one agenda you can do anything. You want to change society, you want to end the tale of two cities, you want to make it one America? You can do that, just the way you knocked coronavirus on its rear end.

People united can do anything. We showed that, we just showed that the past 93 days. We can end the injustice and the discrimination and the intolerance and the police abuse. We have to be smart. We have to be smart right now. Right now in this state. We have to be smart tonight in this city because this is not advancing a reform agenda. This is not persuading government officials to change. This is not helping end coronavirus. We have to be smart.

________________________

© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Details Plan to Restore Trust in the Federal Judiciary

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC.
Warren’s proposals to restore trust in the federal judiciary are particularly noteworthy in light of widespread concern that the judiciary has been politicized © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With Attorney General William Barr facing criticism for his direct involvement in extorting Ukraine to engage in a bogus investigation intended to harm Democratic candidate for 2020 Vice President Joe Biden and opening a criminal investigation into the intelligence officers in the CIA and FBI who initially investigated and exposed Russian meddling in the 2016 Election and contacts with the Trump campaign, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposals unveiled earlier this month to restore trust in the federal judiciary are particularly noteworthy in light of widespread concern that the judiciary has been politicized. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren detailed how she will strengthen the ethical integrity and impartiality of the federal judiciary. Her plan will ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules.

Under her plan, investigations into judicial misconduct could continue even when a judge resigns from office or is elevated to the Supreme Court. This provision would allow the judiciary to reopen the investigations into Alex Kozinski, Maryanne Trump Barry, Brett Kavanaugh, and any other judge who benefited from this loophole.

In December 2017, more than 15 female law clerks alleged that Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski committed sexual misconduct and created a “hostile, demeaning and persistently sexualized environment” for employees. According to their accounts, Kozinski inappropriately touched female clerks and showed them pornography in his chambers. 

It wasn’t the first time he was accused of misconduct. But what did Judge Kozinski do when the judiciary started to investigate? He retired.

And because of inadequate ethics laws, the investigation ended immediately. Meanwhile, Kozinski continues to collect his taxpayer-funded pension for life.

The Kozinski case is just one example of the broader problem of accountability in the federal judiciary.

Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry ended an investigation into the Trump family’s potential tax fraud and other tax schemes by resigning from the bench.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia did not recuse themselves from Citizens United v. FEC, the case that opened an avalanche of money in politics to the benefit of people like the Koch brothers, who invited the pair to multiple all-expenses paid retreats.

And several judges have ruled on cases while owning stock in a company that was a party to the case, violating existing conflicts-of-interest rules that expressly prohibit this practice.

The basic premise of our legal system is that every person is treated equally in the eyes of the law – including judges. Our judiciary only functions properly when it lives up to this promise, and it risks eroding its legitimacy when the American people lose faith that judges are ethical and fair-minded.

That’s why today I’m announcing my plan to strengthen the ethical integrity and impartiality of the federal judiciary. It’s time to ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules.

Recusing Judges and Supreme Court Justices with Conflicts of Interest.

In 2011, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Hill ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson in a case brought by a woman who suffered from a malfunctioning medical implant. He did so while owning as much as $100,000 in the company’s stock. The same judge ruled on three other cases involving companies in which he owned stock – and ruled in favor of the company each time. Judge Hill, unfortunately, is not alone: one study identified 24 cases in which judges owned stock in a company that appeared before them in court.

A basic principle of our federal judicial system is that judges make decisions as disinterested, impartial observers – stepping aside when they may not be able to decide cases objectively. This principle should also bar judges from being the final arbiter of whether they can be objective in the first place. 

It’s time for fundamental reform:

Prohibit judges from deciding for themselves whether they should recuse from a case due to a conflict. When a litigant believes that a judge cannot consider a case in an unbiased manner, the litigant may file a recusal motion asking for another judge to decide the case instead. But our current system gives judges enormous discretion to decide for themselves whether to grant recusal motions where their objectivity is challenged. My plan will instead empower the Chief Judges within regional circuits to establish a binding recusal process. It will also require courts to publish its reasons any time judges are disqualified from a case without a recusal motion, including when judges voluntarily recuse or when an automated conflict-checking software disqualifies them. 

Ban judges from owning or trading individual stocks. It’s not enough for judges like James Hill to recuse in cases with conflicts of interest – my plan would eliminate the appearance of impropriety by banning federal judges from owning or trading individual stocks, while allowing them to instead invest in conflict-free mutual funds or open new investment accounts managed by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. Law firms follow rules like these to avoid the appearance of financial conflicts with the interests of their clients. Judges should certainly be held to the same standard.

Require Supreme Court Justices to provide written explanations of recusal decisions when a litigant challenges for recusal. If a Supreme Court Justice has a conflict of interest, they are ethically obligated to recuse themselves from considering a case, but the law allows them to deny recusal motions without even providing an explanation. Under my plan, when a party asks for a Justice to recuse, the Judicial Conference will issue a non-binding, public advisory opinion with its recommendation – and the challenged Justice will publicly explain their final recusal decision in writing. Because all recusal decisions will be a matter of public record, future litigants will understand these conflicts and know when to bring recusal decisions of their own.

Strengthening Ethics Rules for All Judges.

Every lawyer in America is subject to ethics rules. Federal judges are generally subject to a Code of Conduct that applies the most basic of these principles to members of the judiciary.

But there is no Code of Conduct for Supreme Court Justices.

That means that Supreme Court Justices can go on trips with litigants, like Justice Scalia did when he heard a case involving Vice President Cheney after going hunting with him – without an independent ruling on whether it was proper to do so. It means Justices can receive large speaking fees and all-expenses paid trips to fancy conferences, like Justice Thomas did when the Federalist Society, an extremist right-wing legal group, flew him to Palm Springs and paid for meals and transportation for four days. And it means that someone like Brett Kavanaugh can face accusations of lying to Congress – without a full and fair investigation by the judiciary. These actions could violate the Judicial Code of Conduct, but because unlike all other federal judges these Justices are not bound by a code of ethics, they are immune from any judicial investigations into misconduct. 

We must act now to fix this – and that means strengthening the Code of Conduct for all judges.

Here’s where I would start:

Extend the Code of Conduct to Supreme Court Justices. When Judge Kavanaugh was elevated to the Supreme Court, 83 ethics complaints that had been lodged against him were dismissed – and because the Supreme Court is not covered by a Code of Conduct, no procedure exists to file new complaints. Questions are often raised about the behavior of Supreme Court Justices, such as Justice Thomas’s 13 years of financial disclosures that failed to list $690,000 in payments to his wife from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing judicial activist group – but these actions are beyond the scope of current rules. Enough. My plan applies the Code of Conduct for United States Judges to Supreme Court Justices – and places the Judicial Conference in charge of violations. My plan also allows individuals to file complaints against Supreme Court Justices, just like they can against all other federal judges.  

Strengthen the Code of Conduct to ensure a fair and impartial judiciary. When judges accept gifts or financial contributions from interested parties, public trust in a fair-minded judiciary erodes. My plan strengthens the Code of Conduct so that judges generally cannot receive paid speaking fees or all-expenses-paid trips from outside organizations. To ensure that judges continue to interact with the public without the appearance of impropriety, my plan also establishes a modest fund to help cover reasonable expenses.

Real Enforcement for Judicial Misconduct.

When a lawyer violates the ethics rules, their state’s judiciary can investigate their behavior and impose disciplinary punishment, including stripping their licence to practice law.

But the panels of judges that investigate judicial conduct complaints have limited disciplinary power beyond asking the judge to voluntarily resign or asking the House of Representatives to consider impeachment proceedings – a request the House is free to ignore. 

It’s time for real accountability for judges. Here’s how we’ll start:

Continue investigations into judicial misconduct even when a judge resigns from office or is elevated to the Supreme Court.

In 2016, Federal District Court Judge Walter Smith faced a judicial investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of court employees and drinking on the bench while presiding over cases. Judge Smith resigned, and the complaints filed against him were dismissed. 

My plan extends the authority of the Judicial Conference to former judges so that individuals under investigation cannot simply resign from the bench to avoid accountability. This provision would allow the judiciary to reopen the investigations into Alex KozinskiMaryanne Trump-BarryBrett Kavanaugh, and any other judge who benefited from this loophole.

Provide strong disciplinary authority to judicial ethics watchdogs, including the ability to strip non-vested taxpayer-funded pensions from judges.

Under today’s rules, even if retired judges could be investigated, the Judicial Conference has no meaningful tools to discipline them. American taxpayers are paying for the more than $180,000-per-year retirement pay of Judge Smith, Judge Kozinski, Judge Trump-Barry, and several other judges who left office during investigations into their behavior. We need to restore real accountability within our judiciary. 

That’s why my plan provides disciplinary tools to the Judicial Councils and their parent organization, the Judicial Conference, including the ability to strip sitting or retired judges of their non-vested pension benefits by making retirement pay for new judges explicitly contingent on the absence of serious misconduct. In addition to strengthening these disciplinary tools, my administration will also work to prevent judicial misconduct against employees and law clerks by supporting strong climate surveys, questionnaires to court employees about the work environment in our federal courts, to help the judiciary understand how to improve the culture within our courts.

Create a new, fast-track impeachment process for federal judges who commit impeachable offenses. 

The Constitution reserves the impeachment of judges for only the most egregious offenses. But when a judge commits a serious offense or ethical violation, we need to make sure that there is a prompt investigation – and that Congress takes action.

It’s time to fast-track the process for judges who commit impeachable offenses. My plan would strengthen the process to certify that a judge may have committed an impeachable offense, and would ensure that any impeachment referrals will trigger a series of automatic rules under which the House Judiciary Committee will conduct a thorough investigation and vote without unnecessary delay. These reforms will ensure that judges who commit serious, impeachable offenses will more likely be promptly removed from office.

These changes will not only allow us to ensure accountability for bad actors, including reopening inquiries into the conduct of offenders like Brett Kavanaugh. They will also hold the vast majority of judges who act in good faith to the highest ethical standards, and in the process, begin to restore accountability and trust in a fair and impartial federal judiciary.

Read more about her plan here:  

AOC, Michael Moore, Stars of Progressive Politics Endorse Bernie Sanders at Queens Rally

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Amid a sea of “Bernie” signs and chants of “We are the 99%” and “We will win”, Jane Sanders, looked out over the massive crowd of 25,000 that overflowed Queensbridge Park, beneath the Queensborough Bridge, onto the street, and said, “Here are people from every background in the melting pot called New York. Most of our ancestors came to America for a better life- mine from Ireland to escape famine, poverty; Bernie’s from Poland escaping anti-Semitism, poverty.

Jane Sanders at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“All believed they could have a better life. But in the last 40 years that promise has eroded. Bernie plans to change that.” And, noting that this is his first rally since his heart attack, she said to massive cheers, “Bernie is back. He’s healthy and more than ready to continue his lifelong fight for working people of America.”

Michael Moore: “This is not just about defeating Trump, but the rotten system that gave us Trump’

Democracy, said documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, is where “Everyone gets a seat at the table, a slice of the pie and not fight for last crumbs. We don’t just need a democratic politics, we need a democratic economy.”

Filmmaker Michael Moore at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Moore said, “The powers that be are very unhappy you’re here, that Bernie is back. The pundits, the media [boo] are throwing everything out there to get people to think differently:

“That Bernie is too old. Here’s what’s too old: the Electoral College, the $7 minimum wage, women not being paid the same as men, thousands and thousands of dollars of student debt, $10,000 deductible for health care, Super Delegates, the fossil fuel industry – that’s what’s too old.

“It’s a gift we have 78-year-old American running for president. The experience he has, what he has seen. He knows what a pay raise is, a pension – look it up. What it looks like to defend against fascism and white supremacy, to have the library open every day, what regulations are (Boeing). I’m glad he’s 78.

“Health? We should be talking about the health of planet that’s dying [crowd chants “Green New Deal”]; the health of kids in Flint Michigan, of 40 million living in poverty, of young black males shot in back by police [chant Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Count]. The only heart attack we should talk about is the one Wall Street will have when Bernie wins.

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Next, that Bernie can’t win. He will win he has won 8 times to the House, 2 times to the Senate, 22 states in 2016 – almost half [chant “We will win.]. In 2016 [Democratic primary], Bernie won Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Of the 11 states that border Canada, Bernie won 10 (not NY) [boo] – we can fix that. Of the 5 states that border the Pacific, he won 4; of 6 in New England, won 4; Bernie won West Virginia – all 55 counties. According to a poll, he is #1 in Nevada, a dead heat in Iowa, #1 in New Hampshire. He has raised more money from more donors with the smallest amount.

“Why say Bernie can’t win? Because they are lying to the American people. Bernie will win. [Chant, “We will win”]

“They say he can’t win because he is a [Democratic] socialist [yay!]. That’s not going to fly. The American people have loved socialism for the last 70 years. Social Security, free public school, Medicare, Medicaid, fire department – all are socialist.

“What they don’t want to do is tell the truth, what would happen if they structured economic policies with democracy instead of capitalism. And this isn’t capitalism of your great grandpa, this is a form of greed, selfishness so that just few at the top succeed, the  rest struggle paycheck to paycheck.

“Afraid taxes on rich will go up under Sanders? It was depressing during the debate to watch Democrats go after Medicare for All. What would Franklin Roosevelt say?

“They say we can’t afford it? How does Canada afford it? Every other industrialized country has figured it out, why can’t we? They don’t want us to figure it out.

“They say taxes will go up? That is part of the big lie – your taxes already are up. We don’t call it a tax – in Canada, France, Finland they get free health care, free or nearly free day care and college, but pay more in tax for these things. The average American family pays $12,000 a year for child care, $4000 in student loans, $6000 for deductibles, co-pays and premiums for health care – too damn much – the average is $20,000/year but we don’t call it a tax.

Over 25,000 turned out for the Bernie Sanders for President rally, in Queensbridge Park, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We are here in Queensbridge Park, Manhattan Island just across the river is headquarters of corporate America [boo], corporate media [boo], Wall Street

[boo]

. So much misery has been visited on the American people from a half mile away. It must stop.

“They must hear us at Goldman Sachs, Fox News, Trump Tower – the scene of the crime.

“This [election] is not just about defeating Trump, but the rotten system that gave us Trump…. beating Trump isn’t enough.  We must crush Trump at the polls, then fix the rotten corrupt economic system that gave us Trump.”

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

San Juan Mayor Cruz: “Move forward on the path of progressive agenda. We are equal. We will win. We must win.”

Calling herself a “climate change survivor,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, attacked Trump for “killing us with inefficiency” that contributed to 3,000 Puerto Ricans dying after being smacked by back-to-back hurricanes.

Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Why we have to win” she says is for Medicare-for-All, so no one has to choose between groceries and insulin; to be able to afford college and life after college, to “stand against those who earn $100 million and pay workers starving wages; who take away women’s right to choose; the crime of separating families at southern border; climate change.

“I am a climate change survivor. Climate change is real – 3000 Puerto Ricans were killed because Trump Is a racist, xenophobic, paper throwing demagogue.” [Chant, “Lock him up. Vote him out.”]

“The time is now to be fearless, relentless. I stand with Sanders – I respect every other candidate but there is one name only who can get the job done. Be united in one progressive voice, cross generations. Move forward on the path of progressive agenda. We are equal. We will win. We must win.”

Nina Turner: “We must knock out Billionaire class that doesn’t believe working people deserve a good life.”

National co chair Nina Turner quoted Congresswoman Barbara Jordan who said American people want an America as good as its promise. “That means an America where people don’t die because have to ration insulin; hospitals are not closing; where there is clean water, air, food; a justice system that doesn’t gun down black folks in their houses.

Nina Turner at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need to clean up the criminal injustice system, Truth & Reconciliation about the ravages of racism, a health care system not commodified. We need to take care of Mother Earth.”

Alluding to the Democratic candidates, she said, “There are many copies but only one original. We finally have somebody in our lifetime, his own special interest is people of nation.

“We must knock out Billionaire class that doesn’t believe working people deserve a good life.”

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “We need a United States truly, authentically operated, owned by working people.”

“We must bring revolution of working class to the ballot box of America,” declared Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She prompted chants of “Green New Deal,” saying, “Queensbridge Park is ground zero in the fight for public housing and environmental justice.

“Last February I was working as a waitress in Manhattan, shoulder to shoulder with undocumented workers who were putting in12 hour days with no healthcare, not a living wage. We didn’t think we deserved it. That is the script we tell working people: your inherent worth, value as human depends on income another underpays. Turn around that basic language… We must change the system that puts corporate profit ahead of all human and planetary costs.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

After her parents put all they had to buy a house, she said she learned from an early age that “kids’ destiny determined by zipcode. Income inequality is a fact of life of children.” Her father died of cancer when she was 18 and she learned, “We all are one accident away from everything falling apart.

Sanders, she said, has fought for Planned Parenthood, for public education, for CHIP, for single-payer health care, for gender rights, to end “life-crushing” student debt.

“He didn’t do it because it was popular. He fought when it came at the highest political cost in America.

“In 2016, he changed politics in America. We now have one of the best Democratic fields – much because of Sanders.

“I’m in Congress today but one year ago I was a sexually harassed waitress. This freshman class in overwhelming numbers rejected corporate money – thanks to Bernie – endorsed Medicare for All, sees the climate crisis as an existential threat.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“[In Congress] it is no joke to stand up against corporate power and establishment interests. Arms are twisted, political pressure psychological and otherwise applied to make you abandon the working class.

“I have come to appreciate the nonstop advocacy of Sanders. It’s not just what he fights for but how: mass mobilization of the working class at the ballot box, a movement (against) racism, classism of Hyde Amendment, imperialist and colonial histories that lead to endless war and immigration crisis.

“NYCHA is underfunded by $30 billion –that is not an accident, but an outcome of system that devalues poor, Logic that got us into this won’t get us out.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need a United States truly, authentically operated, owned by working people.

“Bernie showed you can run a grass roots campaign and win in America when others thought it impossible.”

__________

© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Plan to Reduce Mass Incarceration, Reform Criminal Justice System

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president, proposes a plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system without infringing on public safety (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system without infringing on public safety. This is from the Warren2020 campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform our criminal justice system. Elizabeth believes we need to reimagine how we talk and think about public safety, spending our budgets not on putting people in prison but on community services that lift people up. It is a false choice to suggest a trade off between safety and mass incarceration – we can decarcerate and make our communities safer. 

Her plan details how she will reform all aspects of our system: what we choose to criminalize, how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, how long we keep people behind bars and how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.

“We will reduce incarceration and improve justice in our country by changing what we choose to criminalize, reforming police behavior and improving police-community relations, and reining in a system that preferences prosecution over justice. When people are incarcerated, we will provide opportunities for treatment, education and rehabilitation, and we’ll continue those supports for returning citizens as they reenter our communities. Most importantly, we’ll rethink the way we approach public safety — emphasizing preventative approaches over law enforcement and incarceration. That’s the way we’ll create real law and order and real justice in our country.”

Read more about Warren’s plan here: 

The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 20% of the world’s prison population. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with over 2 million people in prison and jail.

Our system is the result of the dozens of choices we’ve made — choices that together stack the deck against the poor and the disadvantaged. Simply put, we have criminalized too many things. We send too many people to jail. We keep them there for too long. We do little to rehabilitate them. We spend billions, propping up an entire industry that profits from mass incarceration. And we do all of this despite little evidence that our harshly punitive system makes our communities safer — and knowing that a majority of people currently in prison will eventually return to our communities and our neighborhoods.

To make matters worse, the evidence is clear that there are structural race problems in this system. Latinx adults are three times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. For the exact same crimes, Black Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged, wrongfully convicted, and given harsher sentences. One in ten Black children has an incarcerated parent.

Four words are etched above the Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law. That’s supposed to be the promise of our justice system. But today in America, there’s one system for the rich and powerful, and another one for everybody else. It’s not equal justice when a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail, while a bank executive who launders money for a drug cartel can get a bonus. It’s long past time for us to reform our system.

Real reform requires examining every step of this system: From what we choose to criminalize, to how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, to how long we keep people behind bars, how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.

We cannot achieve this by nibbling around the edges — we need to tackle the problem at its roots. That means implementing a set of bold, structural changes at all levels of government.

And it starts by reimagining how we talk and think about public safety. For example:

Public safety should mean providing every opportunity for all our kids to get a good education and stay in school.

It should mean safe, affordable housing that keeps families together and off the streets.

It should mean violence intervention programs that divert young people from criminal activity, before the police become involved.

It should mean policies that recognize the humanity of trans people and other LGBTQ+ Americans and keep them safe from violence.

It should mean accessible mental health services and treatment for addiction.

It is a false choice to suggest a tradeoff between safety and mass incarceration. By spending our budgets not on imprisonment but on community services that lift people up, we’ll decarcerate and make our communities safer. Here’s my plan.

Rethink Our Approach to Public Safety

It’s not enough merely to reform our sentencing guidelines or improve police-community relations. We need to rethink our approach to public safety, transitioning away from a punitive system and investing in evidence-based approaches that address the underlying drivers of violence and crime — tackling it at its roots, before it ever has a chance to grow.

Break the school-to-prison pipelineSchools increasingly rely on police officers to carry out discipline while neglecting services that are critical to the well being of students. At least fourteen million students attend schools with a police officer but without a single counselor, social worker, psychologist, or nurse. It’s no surprise that tens of thousands of students are arrested annually, many for minor infractions. Zero tolerance policies start early — on average 250 preschoolers are suspended or expelled every day — and, even in the youngest years, students of color bear the brunt. In later grades, Black and Brown students are disproportionately arrested in schools, while students with disabilities face an increased risk of disciplinary action.

Every child should have the opportunity to receive the support they need to thrive inside and outside of the classroom. Adverse childhood experiences such as poverty, violence at home, homelessness, family separation, or an incarcerated caretaker are proven to negatively impact child development. I will equip schools with resources to meet their students’ needs by providing access to health care to support the physical, mental, and social development of children, improve their overall school readiness and providing early intervention services. We should decriminalize truancy and instead increase the number of school mental health personnel and provide schools with resources to train teachers and administrators in positive behavioral interventions, trauma-informed alternative discipline practices, and implicit bias to limit suspensions, expulsions, and minor-infraction arrests. We should require that any police department receiving federal funds provide mandatory training in the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, youth development, and de-escalation tactics to officers assigned to school campuses. I’ll rescind Trump’s executive order that allows school districts to participate in the 1033 program, giving them access to military-grade weapons. And I’ll fully fund the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education so that it can investigate school districts with dramatic disparities in school disciplinary actions.

Reduce homelessness and housing insecurityChildren that experience homelessness are more likely to drop out of school and more likely to become involved with the criminal system. But as housing and rental costs skyrocket and federal housing assistance doesn’t keep pace, housing insecurity is growing, particularly for families of color. A Warren administration will commit federal funding to the goal of ending homelessness in our country. My housing plan will help, by investing $500 billion over 10 years to build, preserve, and rehab affordable housing, creating 3.2 million new housing units and bringing down rental costs by 10%. It would also help families, especially families of color, buy homes and start to build wealth. Substantially improving housing affordability isn’t just good for the economy and for working families — it will also reduce homelessness and crime.

Invest in evidence-based interruption programsTo improve safety in our communities, we also need to invest in programs that prevent violence and divert criminal behavior. Models in cities like BostonOakland and Chicago demonstrate that we can successfully reduce homicide and gun violence rates through creating cross-community partnerships and focused deterrence on the small percentage of people most likely to commit violence. These programs are cost-effective and have multiplier effects: transforming community climate, improving health outcomes, and boosting local economies. My administration will invest in piloting similar programs at scale.

Decriminalize Mental Health CrisesThe solution for someone experiencing a mental health crisis should not be a badge and a gun, but police officers have become America’s de facto first mental health providers. Historically, 7–10% of police encounters involve a person affected by mental illness, and people with untreated severe mental illness are sixteen times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. People with mental illnesses are not incarcerated at higher rates because they are prone to violence. To the contrary, most are arrested for non-violent offenses, many because they lack access to necessary services. But incarcerating people with mental illness is more expensive as providing appropriate community-based treatment — instead of shuttling people into a system not built to meet their needs, we should invest in preventing people from reaching those crisis points in the first place. Medicare for All will provide continuous access to critical mental health care services, decreasing the likelihood that the police will be called as a matter of last resort. I’ll also increase funding for “co-responder” initiatives that connect law enforcement to mental health care providers and experts. And my administration will pilot evidence-based crisis response efforts to provide needed services to individuals struggling with mental illness.

Invest in diversion programs for substance abuse disorderPeople who struggle with addiction should not be incarcerated because of their disease. Mass incarceration has not reduced addiction rates or overdose deaths, because substance abuse disorder is a public health problem — and it’s long past time to treat it that way. We know that diversion programs are both more humane and a better investment than incarceration — for every dollar we invest in treatment programs, we can save $12 in future crime and health care costs. I’ll support evidence-based safe injection sites and needle exchanges, and expand the availability of buprenorphine to prevent overdoses. And my CARE Act would invest $100 billion over ten years to increase access to high quality treatment and support services. It would provide the regions most affected by the opioid crisis with the resources they need, and would allow state, local and tribal governments to use CARE Act funds to provide incarcerated individuals, and individuals in pre-trial detention, with substance use disorder treatment.

Change What We Choose to Criminalize

We face a crisis of overcriminalization. It has filled our prisons and devastated entire neighborhoods. Addressing the crisis starts by rethinking what we choose to criminalize. It is easy for legislators, fearful of being labeled soft on crime, to rubber stamp every new criminal and sentencing proposal, no matter how punitive. It’s equally easy for them to look the other way when the wealthy and well-connected abuse the rest of us. But from the Senate on down, elected lawmakers have an obligation to do better than that. Here’s where we can start.

Repeal the 1994 crime bill. The 1994 crime bill exacerbated incarceration rates in this country, punishing people more severely for even minor infractions, and limiting discretion in charging and sentencing in our judicial system. That punitive “tough on crime” approach was wrong, it was a mistake, and it needs to be repealed. There are some sections of law, like those relating to domestic violence, that should be retained — but the bulk of the law must go.

Address the legacy of the War on DrugsFor four decades, we’ve subscribed to a “War on Drugs” theory of crime, which has criminalized addiction, ripped apart families — and largely failed to curb drug use. This failure has been particularly harmful for communities of color, and we need a new approach. It starts with decriminalizing marijuana and erasing past convictions, and then eliminating the remaining disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. And rather than incarcerating individuals with substance abuse disorders, we should expand options that divert them into programs that provide real treatment.

Stop criminalizing homelessnessHousing provides safety and stability, but too many experience homelessness. To make matters worse, many cities have criminalized homelessness by banning behavior associated with it, like sleeping in public or living in vehicles. These laws draw people into the justice system instead of giving them access to the services they need. They disproportionately impact communities of colorLGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities, all of whom experience higher rates of homelessness. Rather than treating the homeless like criminals, we should get them with the resources they need to get back on their feet.

Stop criminalizing povertyA simple misdemeanor like a speeding ticket shouldn’t be enough to send someone to spiraling into poverty or worse — but often the fines and fees levied by our legal system bury low-income people who are unable to pay under court-related debt, with no way out. We abolished debtors prisons nearly two hundred years ago, but we’re still criminalizing poverty in this country — low-income individuals are more likely to find themselves entangled in the system and less likely to find their way out. There is no justification for imposing unreasonably high punitive burdens on those who are least able to bear them. As president, I will fight to:

End cash bail. Around 60% of the nearly 750,000 people in jail have not been convicted of a crime — and too often, those jails are overcrowded and inhumane. Our justice system forces its citizens to choose either to submit to the charges brought against them or be penalized for wanting to fight those charges. We should allow people to return to their jobs and families while they wait for trial, reserving preventive detention only for those cases that pose a true flight or safety risk.

Restrict fines and fees levied before adjudication. In many jurisdictions individuals are charged cost-prohibitive pre-trial fees, sending them into debt even if they are ultimately acquitted of a crime. In cases of pre-trial civil forfeiture, an individual often cannot recover property seized prior to conviction. I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s policy expanding pre-trial civil forfeiture at the federal level, and restrict the use of civil forfeiture overall.

Cap the assessment of fines and fees. Jailing someone who can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars in fines on an hourly minimum wage salary is not only cruel — it’s ineffective. Criminal debt collection should be capped at a percentage of income for low-income individuals. States should also eliminate the profit incentive that drives excessive fees and fines by capping the percentage of municipal revenues derived from the justice system, and diverting seized assets into a general fund.

Eliminate fees for necessary services. Private companies and contractors can charge incarcerated people for essential services, like phone calls, bank transfers, and health care. Private companies also profit from charging individuals for their own incarceration and supervision, including through fees for re-entry, supervision, and probation. As I detailed in my plan to end private prisons, I will end this practice and ensure that private companies don’t get rich from exploiting vulnerable people.

Accountability for the wealthy and the well-connectedEqual justice also means an end to the impunity enjoyed by those with money and power. Instead of criminalizing poverty and expanding mass incarceration, I’ve proposed a new criminal negligence standard for executives of corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue when their company is found guilty of a crime or their negligence causes severe harm to American families. Instead of locking up people for nonviolent marijuana crimes, I’ve proposed putting pharmaceutical executives on the hook to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that damage the lives of millions. And I’ve proposed new certification requirements for executives at giant financial institutions so that we can hold them criminally accountable if the banks they oversee commit fraud.

Reform How the Law Is Enforced

While reform begins with deciding what constitutes a crime, the authority to enforce the law includes tremendous discretion. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges make countless decisions every day that shape the reality of how our criminal justice system functions for the millions of Americans it comes into contact with. We must critically examine each aspect of the enforcement process to ensure that it is both just and consistent with public safety.

Law Enforcement ReformThe vast majority of police officers sign up so they can protect their communities. They are part of a profession that works tirelessly and takes risks every day to keep us safe. But we also know that many people of color, including Native Americans, disproportionately experience trauma at the hands of law enforcement, sometimes with life-altering consequences. On average, three people are shot and killed by the police every day, a disproportionate number of them young and Black. Others are arrested and entered into a system that unduly penalizes even minor infractions.

Everyone is less safe when trust erodes between the police and the communities they serve. Yet we’ve continued to allow policing practices that are both ineffective and discriminatory. It’s time to fundamentally change how police work is done in America: funding what works; replacing failed policies with effective, evidence-based practices that do not violate individual rights; and reframing our approach to public safety to prioritize prevention over punishment. Here’s how we do it.

Improve access to treatment and early intervention. For the third straight year, the number of suicides among law enforcement in 2018 outnumbered the line-of-duty deaths. Law enforcement officers experience higher rates of addiction, post-traumatic stress, and other trauma related disorders. I’ll invest in mental and emotional health support to help our officers do their job, including by expanding promising pilots like peer intervention and early warning programs.

Improve data collection and reporting. For nearly a century, we have measured crime in this country. It’s time we measure justice — and act when we don’t measure up. Today there is no comprehensive government database on fatal police shootings, ethics issues, misconduct complaints, or use of force incidents. My Justice Department will establish a rigorous and systematic process to collect this data, provide relevant data collection training to local law enforcement, and make data publicly available wherever possible. We’ll use that data to prioritize federal oversight and to hold police accountable for the portion of the bad policing outcomes for which they are responsible. And we’ll work with interested departments to use their own data to improve their legitimacy in the communities they serve and inform more just and effective policing.

Increase federal oversight capacity. The Obama Justice Department used its authority to investigate police departments with a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing — but resource constraints limited the number of interventions carried out. Meanwhile, the Trump administration hasn’t initiated any investigations at all. I’ll reverse the Sessions guidance limiting the use of consent decree investigations, and triple funding for the Office of Civil Rights to allow for increased investigations of departments with the highest rates of police violence and whenever there is a death in custody. In this way, we can further incentivize police departments with persistent issues to adopt best practices.

Empower State Attorneys General. Even an expanded DOJ will not be able to provide oversight for many thousands of law enforcement agencies in this country. And accountability for unconstitutional policing shouldn’t simply shut down under a hostile President like Trump. To build a more durable system, I’ll incentivize states to empower their attorneys general to conduct their own oversight of police behavior nationwide.

Demand increased civilian oversight. Community engagement can fill the gap and provide oversight where the federal government, even with increased capacity, cannot. Approximately 150 communities have civilian oversight boards, but that covers only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies in America. To expand local oversight and democratic engagement in policing, I will implement a competitive grant program that provides funding to communities that establish an independent civilian oversight mechanism for their police departments, such as a civilian oversight board or Office of Civilian Complaints. These boards should have a role in officer discipline and provide input on hiring police executives as well as hiring and promoting within the departments they oversee.

Establish a federal standard for the use of force. When cities employ more restrictive policies for police use of force, they improve both community trust and officer safety. I will direct my administration to develop and apply evidence-based standards for the use of force for federal law enforcement, incorporating proven approaches and strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives. At the federal level, I’ll prohibit permissive pursuit policies that often result in collateral damage, like high-speed chases and shooting at moving vehicles. And I’ll work with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that training and technology deployed at the federal level can be implemented at all levels of government, helping to limit the use of force while maintaining safety for officers and the communities they are sworn to protect.

Increase federal funding for law enforcement training. Improved training can reduce the number of police-involved shootings and improve perceptions of police legitimacy. But if If we want police practices to change, then the way we train our officers must change — both when they are hired and throughout their careers. My administration will provide incentives for cities and states that hire a diverse police force and provide tools and resources to ensure that best practices on law enforcement training are available across America, providing local police with what they need to meet federal training requirements, including training on implicit bias and the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, cultural competency, and engaging individuals with cognitive or other disabilities. And we should support evidence-based continuing education for officers throughout their careers.

Restrict qualified immunity to hold police officers accountable. When an officer abuses the law, that’s bad for law enforcement, bad for victims, and bad for communities. Without access to justice and accountability for those abuses, we cannot make constitutional due process protections real. But today, police officers who violate someone’s constitutional rights are typically shielded from civil rights lawsuits by qualified immunity — a legal rule invented by the courts that blocks lawsuits against government officials for misconduct unless a court has previously decided that the same conduct in the same context was unconstitutional. Qualified immunity has shielded egregious police misconduct from accountability and drawn criticism from across the political spectrum. Last month, for example, a federal appeals court in Atlanta granted qualified immunity to a police officer who, while aiming at a family’s dog, shot a 10-year-old boy while the child was lying on the ground 18 inches away from the officer. Just two weeks ago, another federal court used qualified immunity to dismiss a lawsuit against a school police officer who handcuffed a sobbing seven-year-old boy for refusing to go to the principal’s office. This makes no sense. I support limiting qualified immunity for law enforcement officials who are found to have violated the Constitution, and allowing victims to sue police departments directly for negligently hiring officers despite prior misconduct.

End racially discriminatory policing. Policies like stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” policing have trampled the constitutional rights of countless Americans — particularly those from Black and Brown communities — without any measurable impact on violent crime. I’ll end stop-and-frisk by directing the Justice Department to withhold federal funding from law enforcement agencies that continue to employ it and other similar practices, and I’ll work with Congress to pass legislation to prohibit profiling at all levels of law enforcement.

Separate law enforcement from immigration enforcement. The data are clear. When local law enforcement is mixed with immigration enforcement, immigrants are less likely to report crimes, and public safety suffers. It’s time to stop directing law enforcement officers to do things that undermine their ability to keep communities safe. My immigration plan will address this by ending the 287(g) and “Secure Communities” programs, putting in guidelines to protect sensitive locations like hospitals and schools, and expanding protections for immigrant survivors of violent crimes that come forward and work with law enforcement.

Demilitarize local law enforcement. Officer safety is critically important. But we don’t build trust between police and communities when we arm local law enforcement as if they are going to war. Militarizing our police contributes to mutual fear and distrust, and there is evidence to suggest it can actually make officers themselves less safe. As President, I will eliminate the transfer of military-grade weapons and lethal equipment to local police via the 1033 program, prohibit local law enforcement from buying military equipment with federal funding, and create a buy-back program for equipment already in use in our communities.

Expand the responsible use of body cameras and protect citizen privacy. Body cameras don’t solve every problem, but used consistently and appropriately they can decrease the use of force and misconduct complaints. The federal government should expand funding for body cameras — especially for smaller jurisdictions that struggle to afford them — in exchange for departments implementing accountability policies that ensure consistent and responsible camera use. I’ll also establish a task force on digital privacy in public safety to establish guardrails and appropriate privacy protections for this and other surveillance technology, including the use of facial recognition technology and algorithms that exacerbate underlying bias. And I’ll make it clear that individuals have every right to record an interaction with the police.

Reduce gun violence. We’ve learned the hard way in Massachusetts that the job of our police is made exponentially harder by the weapons flooding our streets. Common sense gun reform and meaningful safeguards will improve safety for law enforcement and the communities they serve. In 2017, almost 40,000 people died from guns in the United States. I have a plan with the goal of reducing that number by 80%, including by expanding background checks, establishing a federal licensing system, and holding the gun industry accountable for the violence promoted by their products.

Prosecutorial and Judicial ReformOur current criminal system is complex and places enormous power in the hands of the state. The government controls what leads to pursue, what charges are levied, whether a plea is offered, and how long someone spends behind bars. It has massive resources at its disposal, and enjoys few obligations to share information and limited oversight of its actions. All of this makes it challenging to ensure that the accused can go to trial, can get a fair trial, and can receive a just and reasonable sentence if convicted. To make matters worse, race permeates every aspect of the system — people of color are twice as likely to be charged with crimes that carry a mandatory minimum sentence. Reform requires a transparent system that emphasizes justice, that gives people a fighting chance — and truly treats everyone equally, regardless of color. Here’s how we can start.

Strengthen public defenders and expand access to counsel. The Sixth Amendment provides every American accused of a crime with the right to an attorney — but too many defendants cannot afford one, and too often, public defenders are under-resourced, overworked, and overwhelmed. If we expect fair adversarial trials, we need to balance resources on both sides of each case in every jurisdiction. I’ll fund federal public defenders and expand targeted grant funding for public defenders at the state level, to ensure that they have the tools to effectively defend their clients. I’ll also reopen and expand DOJ’s Office for Access to Justice, which worked with state and local governments to expand access to counsel. We should ensure that our public defenders are paid a fair salary for their work, and that their caseloads allow for the comprehensive defense of their clients. Finally, I’ll provide funding for language and cultural competency training, including on gender identity and treatment of individuals with disabilities, so that public defenders are best able to serve their clients.

Rein in prosecutorial abuses. Prosecutors are enormously powerful and often not subject to scrutiny or accountability. I will support a set of reforms that would rein in the most egregious prosecutorial abuses and make the system fairer, including reducing the use of coercive plea bargaining by DOJ prosecutors at the federal level, establishing open-file discovery, and putting in place responsible standards for evidence gathering. I’ll establish a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct to make additional recommendations for best practices and monitor adoption of those recommendations. And I’ll create an independent prosecutorial integrity unit to hold accountable prosecutors who abuse their power.

Expand access to justice for people wrongfully imprisoned. Defendants who are wrongfully imprisoned have the right to challenge their detention in court through a procedure known as habeas corpus. The Framers believed this right was so important to achieving justice that they guaranteed it specifically in the Constitution. It’s particularly important for minority defendants — Black Americans, for example, make up only 13% of the population but a plurality of wrongful convictions. In 1996, at the height of harsh federal policies that drove mass incarceration, Congress made it absurdly difficult for wrongfully imprisoned individuals to bring these cases in federal court. Since then, conservative Supreme Court Justices have built on those restrictions — making it nearly impossible for defendants to receive habeas relief even when they have actual proof of innocence. We should repeal these overly restrictive habeas rules, make it harder for courts to dismiss these claims on procedural technicalities, and make it easier to apply new rules that emerge from these cases to people who were wrongfully imprisoned before those rules came into effect.

Protect the rights of survivors. Crime victims have the right to safety and justice, the right to be consulted and informed about the status of their case, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We should provide support for those who have experienced trauma, including medical care and safe housing. This is particularly true for those who have experienced sexual assault or violence at the hands of an intimate partner. I’ll also fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and provide full funding to eliminate the rape kit backlog across the country.

Appointing a diverse judicial bench. The justice system should reflect the country it serves. Judicial appointments are primarily white and male, and large numbers tend to have a prosecutorial background. Diversity of experience matters. That’s why I have pushed for increasing the professional diversity of our federal judiciary to insulate the courts from corporate capture, and why I support gender and racial diversity for judicial nominees. I’ll appoint a diverse slate of judges, including those who have a background defending civil liberties or as public defenders.

Take into account the views of those most impacted by the system.As President, I will establish an advisory board comprised of survivors of violence, along with formerly incarcerated individuals. I’ll consult with this advisory board and listen to the needs of those who have first-hand experience with the system as we find fair and just solutions to the challenges we face.

Reforming Incarceration

The federal prison population has grown 650% since 1980, and costs have ballooned by 685%. This explosion has been driven in large part by rules requiring mandatory minimum sentences and other excessively long sentencing practices. These harsh sentencing practices are not only immoral, there’s little evidence that they are effective. As president I will fight change them.

Reduce mandatory minimumsThe 1994 crime bill’s mandatory minimums and “truth-in-sentencing” provisions that require offenders to serve the vast majority of their sentences have not proven effective. Congress should reduce or eliminate these provisions, giving judges more flexibility in sentencing decisions, with the goal of reducing incarceration to mid-1990s levels. My administration will also reverse the Sessions memo that requires federal prosecutors to seek the most severe possible penalties, and allow federal prosecutors discretion to raise the charge standards for misdemeanors and seek shorter sentences for felony convictions.

Raise the age for criminal liability. We know that cognition and decision-making skills continue to develop beyond the teenage years. For that reason, many states have raised the age of adult criminal liability to at least 17, or granted additional discretion to prosecutors when charging offenders between the ages of 16 and 18. The federal government should do the same — raising the age of adult criminal liability to 18, eliminating life-without-parole sentences for minors, and diverting young adult offenders into rehabilitative programs wherever possible.

End the death penaltyStudies show that capital punishment is often applied in a manner biased against people of color and those with a mental illness. I oppose the death penalty. A Warren administration would reverse Attorney General Barr’s decision to move forward with federal executions, and Congress should abolish the death penalty.

Use the pardon and clemency powers broadly to right systemic injusticesThe president has significant powers to grant clemency and pardons, and historically presidents have used that power broadly. But today’s hierarchical process at DOJ results in relatively few and conservative clemency recommendations. I’ll remove the clemency process from DOJ, instead empowering a clemency board to make recommendations directly to the White House. I’ll direct the board to identify broad classes of potentially-deserving individuals for review, including those who would have benefited from retroactivity under the First Step Act, individuals who are jailed under outdated or discriminatory drug laws, or those serving mandatory minimums that should be abolished.

Improving conditions in prisonToday prisons are often understaffed and overcrowded, making them dangerous for both inmates and corrections officers. Even as we fight to reduce incarceration levels, we should support improved staffing levels and better training for corrections officers, and humane conditions for those behind bars. As president, I will:

Ensure that incarceration meets basic human rights standards. From inadequate health care to dangerous overcrowding, today our prison system is not meeting the government’s basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe. I’ll embrace a set of standards for the Bureau of Prisons to fix this. That includes accommodating religious practices, providing reasonable accommodations for prisoners with disabilities, and limiting restrictive housing in accordance with evidence-based best practices. We should ensure that trans people are assigned to facilities that align with their gender identity and provide the unique medical and psychiatric care they need, including access to hormone treatments and help with adjusting to their care. And we should eliminate solitary confinement, which provides little carcerative benefit and has been demonstrated to harm prisoners’ mental and physical health, in favor of safe alternatives.

Protect special populations. Vulnerable individuals like pregnant women, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ individuals often require special protections while behind bars. I’ll implement a rigorous auditing program to ensure that prisons are adhering to legal requirements to protect LGBTQ+ individuals and others from sexual violence and assault while incarcerated, and prosecute prison staff who engage in misconduct. I’ll ensure that juveniles are not housed in adult facilities. I’ll also eliminate the use of solitary confinement for protective purposes. Instead, I’ll direct the Bureau of Prisons to establish a set of standards and reforms to protect the most vulnerable in our prison system in a way that does not involve confining a person for more than 20 hours a day.

Invest in programs that facilitate rehabilitation. The evidence is clear: providing education and opportunity behind bars reduces recidivism when people leave prison. But when prison populations went up and budgets went down, rehabilitation services were often the first cuts. In a world where the vast majority of prisoners will eventually leave prison, this makes no sense. I’ll double grant funding for these services in our prisons, expanding programs focused on things like vocational training, anger management, and parenting skills.

Expand mental health and addiction treatment. 14% of prisoners meet the threshold for serious psychological distress, and many more struggle with addiction — but too often, they receive prison time rather than treatment. And instead of increasing access to treatment in prison, the Bureau of Prisons has reduced it. Providing mental health treatment during incarceration reduces recidivism. We must take a comprehensive approach to incarcerated people who face mental health and addiction challenges, including requiring an adequate number of counselors and addiction specialists, individualized treatment, and increased access to medication-assisted treatment.

Eliminate private prisons. I have called to eliminate private prisonsthat make millions off the backs of incarcerated people. We should also end all-foreign or “criminal alien requirement” facilities, which are reported to have higher negative outcomes.

Support Reentry

The period after release from prison can be challenging for returning citizens. During this critical period, they are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be rearrested, more likely to overdose, and more likely to die. Recidivism rates remain high, in part because our prisons have not fulfilled their rehabilitative function, and in part because lack of opportunity after release drives individuals to re-offend. On top of all of this, more than 60,000 inmates in our prisons are there because of technical violations of their parole — for offenses as minor as a speeding ticket. We need evidence-based programs and interventions to break the cycle of incarceration and set formerly incarcerated individuals up for success when they return to their families and their communities. This is particularly true for youth and minors, who are especially vulnerable when returning to an unstable environment. Here are some of the steps I will take.

Pressure states to eliminate collateral sanctionsMillions of Americans are currently on parole or probation. We know that reducing the barriers to full reintegration in society reduces recidivism, but the system is rife with collateral consequences that hamper reentry for formerly incarcerated people who have served their time — from restrictions on occupational licensing to housing to the disenfranchisement of over 3 million returning citizens. We should remove those barriers and allow those who have served their time to find work and fully rejoin their communities.

Reduce needlessly restrictive parole requirementsTechnical parole and probation violations make up a large number of all state prison admissions, sometimes for infractions as minor as a paperwork error. While many rules are made at the state level, the federal government should seek to remove those barriers wherever possible, reduce parole requirements for low-level offenders, and remove the threat of jail time for minor parole violations.

Reduce discrimination during reentryI’ll reverse the guidance that exempts privately run re-entry programs that contract with the Bureau of Prisons from anti-discrimination laws, restoring protections for individuals with disabilities and those that encounter discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Establish a federal expungement optionMany states provide a certificate of recovery for nonviolent offenders who have served their time and maintained a clean record for a certain number of years. This should be replicated at the federal level.

Ensuring Reform at the State and Local Level

The federal government oversees just 12% of the incarcerated population and only a small percentage of law enforcement and the overall criminal legal system. To achieve real criminal justice reform on a national scale, we must move the decisions of states and local governments as well.

My administration will work with state and local governments and incentivize adoption of new federal standards through the grantmaking process. Federal grants make up nearly one third of state budgets, and states and local authorities spend about 6% of their budget on law enforcement functions. My administration would reprioritize state and local grant making toward a restorative approach to justice, and expand grant funding through categorical grants that require funds to be used for criminal justice reform and project grants that require funding to be allocated to specific programs. When necessary, my plan would also use federal enforcement authority. My administration would expand on the Obama-era practice of using Department of Justice consent decrees and other judicial settlements to enforce federal standards and remedy constitutional violations at the state and local level. My plan would also leverage the federal government’s Spending Clause authority and ability to impose civil rights mandates using cross-cutting requirements to ensure that state and local governments comply with federal criminal justice reform standards.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Bernie Sanders Releases ‘Justice and Safety for All’ Plan to Reform Criminal Justice

Senator Bernie Sanders, at Second Democratic Debate, has released his plan to reform the criminal justice system.

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders released his plan to reform the entire criminal justice system. This is from the Sanders campaign:

Blueprint aims to reform every aspect of America’s dysfunctional criminal justice system, ridding it of institutional racism and corporate profiteering

COLUMBIA, SC – Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running to be the Democratic candidate for president, released a comprehensive plan to reform the entire American criminal justice system in a speech he delivered August 18 in the Greenview neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina. The plan is designed to root out the institutional racism and corporate profiteering that is plaguing the existing system.

“If we stand together, we can eliminate private prisons and detention centers.  No more profiteering from locking people up. If we stand together we can end the disastrous “war on drugs.” If we stand together we can end cash bail.  No more keeping people in jail because they’re too poor. If we stand together we can enact real police department reform and prosecute police brutality. If we stand together, there is nothing, nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish.”

Sanders has fought mass incarceration during his decades in Congress, and he campaigned for president in 2016 on a pledge to end for-profit prisons — a pledge that other Democrats have subsequently decided to support 4 years later. Sanders’ new plan reiterates his original call to ban for-profit prisons, and builds on his leadership on criminal justice with new proposals for a top-to-bottom reform of America’s law enforcement, judicial and incarceration systems. They include:

End for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom

  • Ending for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom, including banning cash bail and banning civil asset forfeiture, which allows police departments to seize property from people who have not been accused or convicted of a crime.
     
  • Ensure the criminal justice system is not the “best justice money can buy” by vastly increasing funding for public defenders and creating a federal formula to ensure populations have a minimum number of public defenders to meet their needs, and working with states to set a minimum starting salary for public defenders.

End Mass Incarceration and Excessive Sentencing and Inhumane Incarceration and Transform the Way We Police Communities

  • Reversing mass incarceration and setting a goal of cutting the incarcerated population in half.
     
  • Transforming the way we police our communities, creating an unarmed civilian corp of first responders to handle mental health emergencies, homelessness, and other low-level issues that should not require contact with the police and criminal justice system.
     
  • Creating national standards for use of police force that emphasize de-escalation rather than violence, and holding police misconduct to strict federal standards, including limiting qualified immunity for police officers, creating a federal deadly use of force database, and a registry of disreputable officers.
     
  • Ending the War on Drugs, including legalizing marijuana and expunging past convictions for marijuana-related offenses and finally ending the sentencing disparities for crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses.
     
  • Abolishing the death penalty and solitary confinement.
     
  • Enacting a Prisoner Bill of Rights for incarcerated individuals, including living wages, access to families, access to educational and vocational training, and the right to vote.
  • Reverse the Criminalization of Communities, End Cycles of Violence and Provide Support to Survivors of Crime

Reversing the criminalization of disability, addiction, and homelessness.  

  • Treat children in the criminal justice system as children. This means raising the age to charge children in adult court to 18, ending long mandatory minimum sentences and life without parole sentences for youth, decriminalizing truancy, and investing in youth diversion programs and alternatives to the court and prison system.
     
  • End cycles of violence and interrupt them before they begin. This means focusing law enforcement resources on solving homicides and other serious crimes, funding Cure Violence programs and similar proven violence interruption models, and ending the national rape kit backlog. 
     
  • Support the victims and survivors of crimes by providing sustained resources to survivors and their families, including mental health care, trauma recovery services, relocation services, and assistance with basic needs.


Read the full plan HERE.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to End Private Prisons and Exploitation for Profit

Senator Elizabeth Warren, seeking to be the Democratic candidate for President, has released her plan to root out the profit incentives standing in the way of real reform of the criminal and immigration systems © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Prior to her appearance at the NALEO Presidential Candidate Forum, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to root out the profit incentives standing in the way of real reform of our criminal and immigration systems. Her plan would ban private prisons and detention facilities, stop contractors from charging service fees for essential services, and hold contractors accountable by expanding oversight, transparency and enforcement.

“Last month Caliburn International — a for-profit company whose subsidiary operates Homestead, the largest detention center for unaccompanied migrant children — hired John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff. Caliburn has profited directly off of the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policies — while children at Homestead are reportedly kept in unsanitary, prison-like conditions, often for months. Now John Kelly is cashing in, too,” Warren stated.

“Rep. Pramila Jayapal and I have demanded answers. But this is just the latest example of private prison companies wringing billions out of federal taxpayers. I’ve been after these companies to come clean about their practices and human rights abuses. Every answer just raises more questions.

“We didn’t get here by chance. Washington works hand-in-hand with private prison companies, who spend millions on lobbyists, campaign contributions, and revolving-door hires — all to turn our criminal and immigration policies into ones that prioritize making them rich instead of keeping us safe. From 2000 to 2016, the private prison population grew five times as quickly as the overall prison population. And the profiteers multiplied, too: today, nearly 4,000corporations make money off mass incarceration.

“President Obama took steps to lower the incarceration rate and wind down private prisons, but these companies got their biggest break yet when Donald Trump landed in the White House. With Trump, private prison companies saw their chance to run the same playbook for our immigration system. They poured money into lobbying for “alternatives” to ICE detention centers. And boy, did it pay off. Private detention centers have made millions implementing Trump’s cruel immigration policies, as the number of detained children quintupled in just a single year. Today 73% of detained immigrants are held in private detention facilities.

“The companies running prisons and detention centers regularly sacrifice safety to boost their bottom line. Private facilities have higher rates of assaults than federal prisons. They violate federal rules by putting incarcerated people into solitary confinement to fit more bodies in the building. They impose forced laboron immigrants just to make a buck. Multiple detainees have committed suicide. And now, under Trump, babies are getting sick and dying from their detention centers.

“The government has also stood silently by while private contractors providing services in both public and private centers come up with extortive schemes to make millions off of the backs of incarcerated people. Prison phone companies charge as much as $25 for a 15-minute call, forcing families into debt just to stay connected to loved ones. Commissary contractors mark up prices, and companies coerce detainees to work for as little as a dollar a day just to afford basic necessities like toothpaste.

“While contractors getting paid taxpayer dollars cut corners to maximize margins, the government has turned a blind eye. Food companies make millions but serve bug-infested food to save cash. An investigation into a prison transport company that allowed at least five deaths and a sexual assault to occur under their watch has gone nowhere.

“And today, the exploitation doesn’t end when individuals emerge from prison or detention. Current law pushes money into the hands of for-profit supervision companies, many of which are run by the same private prison corporations. These companies get rich by making people just getting out of prison — often with huge debts — pay outrageous fees for monitoring and supervision services like ankle monitors. Some have gone so far as to threaten individuals with reincarceration.

“This is exploitation, plain and simple. Our criminal and immigration systems are tearing apart communities of color and devastating the poor, including children. Women — especially women of color — are particularly saddled with the financial burden. We need significant reform in both criminal justice and in immigration, to end mass incarceration and all of the unnecessary, cruel, and punitive forms of immigration detention that have taken root in the Trump Administration.

“The first step is to end this private profiteering off cruelty.

“The government has a basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe — not to use their punishment as an opportunity for profit. That’s why today, I’m proposing my plan to root out once and for all the profit incentives perverting our criminal and immigration systems.

“Here’s what I’ll do:”

  • Ban private prisons and detention facilities. There should be no place in America for profiting off putting more people behind bars or in detention. That’s why I will shut down the use of federal private detention facilities by ending all contracts that the Bureau of Prisons, ICE, and the U.S. Marshals Service have with private detention providers. And I will extend these bans to states and localities by conditioning their receipt of federal public safety funding on their use of public facilities.
  • Stop contractors from charging service fees for essential services. Companies shouldn’t be able to treat incarcerated individuals as captive profit centers. We should prohibit contractors from charging incarcerated and detained people for basic services they need, like phone calls, bank transfers, and healthcare. I’ll also keep contractors from imposing exploitative price markups on other services they provide, like commissary or package services. And I’ll prohibit companies from charging for re-entry, supervision, and probation services, too — because no one should have to pay for their own incarceration, whether it’s inside a facility or outside of one.
  • Hold contractors accountable by expanding oversight, transparency and enforcement. It’s time to shine sunlight on the black box of private services that receive taxpayer dollars. I’ll close the ridiculous FOIA loophole that lets private prison subcontractors operate in the shadows. I will put in place an independent Prison Conditions Monitor within the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. The Monitor will keep contractors from cutting corners to make a quick buck by setting enforceable quality standards, regularly auditing and investigating contractors, and terminating their contracts if they fall short. I’ll direct the Department of Justice to prosecute companies that blatantly violate the law. And I’ll make sure companies are held accountable no matter who’s in the White House by allowing people to bring a lawsuit against abusive contractors who violate their rights.

“Washington hands billions over to corporations profiting off of inhumane detention and incarceration policies while ignoring the families that are destroyed in the process. We need to call that out for what it is: corruption. Incarcerating and detaining millions for profit doesn’t keep us safe. It’s time to do better,” Warren stated.

Read more about Warren’s plan to end private prisons here.