Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed an Executive Order — the ‘New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative’ — requiring local police agencies, including the NYPD, to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community based on community input. Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including, but not limited to use of force.
During the same event, attended by Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell; NAACP President Hazel Dukes; Reverend Al Sharpton , New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Cuomo also signed the ‘Say Their Name’ Reform Agenda package following the killing of George Floyd and an ongoing pattern of police brutality against minority communities across the nation. These landmark policing reforms will help reduce inequality in policing and reimagine the state’s criminal justice system. The reforms include:
Allowing for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by repealing 50-a of the civil rights law;
Banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers;
Prohibiting false race-based 911 reports; and
Designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the civilian deaths.
“The murder of George Floyd was just the tipping point of the systemic injustice and discrimination that has been going on in our nation for decades, if not centuries,” Governor Cuomo said.”These are issues that the country has been talking about for a long time, and these nation-leading reforms will make long overdue changes to our policing and criminal justice systems while helping to restore community confidence in law enforcement.
Under Cuomo’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative executive order, police forces throughout the state, in cities, towns and counties- some 500 of them – must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021 to be eligible for future state funding and certify that they have:
Engaged stakeholders in a public and open process on policing strategies and tools;
Presented a plan, by chief executive and head of the local police force, to the public for comment;
After consideration of any comments, presented such plan to the local legislative body (council or legislature as appropriate) which has approved such plan (by either local law or resolution); and
If such local government does not certify the plan, the police force may not be eligible to receive future state funding.
“The protests taking place throughout the nation and in communities across New York in response to the murder of George Floyd illustrate the loss of community confidence in our local police agencies — a reality that has been fueled by our country’s history of police-involved deaths of black and brown people,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our law enforcement officers are essential to ensuring public safety — they literally put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us. This emergency regulation will help rebuild that confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve by requiring localities to develop a new plan for policing in the community based on fact-finding and meaningful community input.”
Immediately following the death of George Floyd, Governor Cuomo laid out a series of reform policy items – called the “Say Their Name” agenda – including allowing for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by reforming 50-a of the civil rights law; banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers; prohibiting false race-based 911 reports and making them a crime; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
This builds on prior executive actions the Governor has taken including appointing the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
“The horrific murder of George Floyd, the most recent in a long list of innocent people like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and so many more, has led to a rightful outpouring of grief and anger,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, who recalled when her own son, at 18 years old, was taken into custody and left with a broken nose. “Black New Yorkers, like all residents of this state, deserve to know that their rights, and lives, are valued and protected by our justice system. The legislation that will be signed today will help stop bad actors and send a clear message that brutality, racism, and unjustified killings will not be tolerated.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said,”The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and so many others shake us to the core. This week, my colleagues and I in the Assembly Majority answered the call of New Yorkers by passing historic reforms to our law enforcement system. These reforms have been championed by our members for years, and I want to thank my colleagues for their tireless commitment to seeing them through to the finish line. I would also like to thank the families of the victims and the passionate advocates who never tired in this fight for justice. They have courageously channeled their grief into a positive force for change and inspired us to deliver meaningful reforms here in New York.”
Cuomo stressed that actions need to be taken at the federal level to create national standards that root out systemic racism in criminal justice and law enforcement, but that New York State, as the “progressive capital” of the nation, would serve as a model for other states and ultimately the federal government.
“Criminal justice reform should be done on a national level,” he said. “And the House has been very aggressive on reform, the Congress, and I applaud them for it. But New York State is the progressive capital. We never sit back and say just what the nation should do, we show the nation what it should do. We lead by example and we lead by getting it done. We are a state of action and that’s us at our best…”
“There is no quick fix to this,” Cuomo said. “There is no, ’”Well, stop tear gas. Well, change the uniforms.’ That’s not what this is about, my friends. And it would be a mistake if we went down that path. This is systemic reform of police departments. This is sitting down and taking a look at exactly what they do and have been doing and looking at it through a new lens of reform and reinvention, because this has been 40, 50 years in the making. Providing police with military equipment, increasing the number of police, it goes back to the ’90s in the crime bills. Looking at the population explosion in our prisons, this was a long time in coming, and this is not about a press release that’s going to solve it. The way we really solve this is we say to every police agency in this state, I believe it should happen in the nation, sit down at the table with the local community, address these issues, get to the root of these issues, get a plan, pass that plan by your local government, and if you don’t, you’re not going to get any additional state funds, period. We’re not going to fund police agencies in this state that do not look at what has been happening, come to terms with it and reform themselves. We’re not going to be as a state government subsidizing improper police tactics, we’re not doing it. And this is how we’re going to do it.”
Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins spoke personally: “But every parent, every mother who looks like me understood that scary notion with our kids, with our husbands, with our brothers. I got that call when my son, my youngest son was only 18 years old and he was quote unquote on the wrong side of the town, he was stopped, he was frisked. The next thing I know after we’re out of the police station, we’re in the emergency room because he has a fractured nose. Thank god I was able to bring him home. I ache for Gwen, Valerie. I understood that.”
She noted that her brother, Bobby, a Marine vet, a Vietnam War vet, served as a transit police officer for six years, before he left “because he was convinced that the department, that the system was designed so that every young black man would have a record. He knew. He was a good cop, he worked with good cops, but he couldn’t change that. And you knew the system couldn’t change itself.
“And so here we are. We know this isn’t a cure, as the governor said. We know that this is the beginning, but it’s a move to bring justice to a system that has long been unjust. And, again, I thank you for being a partner for making sure that we take to heart this moment that has taken too long to come to. And I thank all of the people in the streets and the leadership of the families to make this happen. So, thank you, Governor.”
Assembly Speaker Heastie reflected, “There are still many other issues of systemic injustice and systemic racism that people of color have to deal with. It’s education and health disparities and these are all things that we have to continue as Government to be a part of. Government is supposed to be problem solvers. When society can’t fix things that’s what government is supposed to come in and chart that costs so this is just a very it’s an emotional day.”
Many reflected on the long list of victims over the past 40-50 years, and sporadic flare-ups of outrage but nothing concrete to change the system. What was different now?
Cuomo opined, “But I think it wasn’t just about Mr. Floyd’s death. I think it was the cumulative impact and I think all the names on that list did not die in vain. I think it took that repeated articulation to get the country to this point. Reverend Sharpton— on every one of those situations— was out there making this point all over the country. All over the country. And finally, finally, the country heard! But the reason we’re here today, make no mistake, is because Rev. Sharpton and good people across the country, were out there making the point every time over and over and over again.
“So, Eric Garner did not die in vain. Shawn Bell did not die in vain. It took— it took a number of lives, unfortunately. it took a number of injustices, unfortunately. But each one was a part in getting to today and it was Rev. Sharpton standing up and making sure the people of this nation heard every time, every injustice happened. And that— that Reverend— is a special ability, a special contribution, and it happened year after year after year and we all respect your effort. We thank you for what you’ve done. We thank you for your voice, which the nation has heard. This state has heard. And not only did we hear you— we’re going to make a difference and this state is going to make a difference and I believe it’s going to be a difference that will resonate across the nation. Because what we’re doing here, making every police agency come to the table with the community— that should be done in every police agency in this country. Together we’ll make it happen. Reverend Sharpton.”
Sharpton replied, ”let us be very clear. There is no governor in this country that has said what he said this morning. He and I are debating sometimes, but he has, in many ways, done things that even I did not expect. To say that every mayor must come up with a plan along these areas or they will withhold state money, is a model for where we ought to be dealing with 21st century civil rights in this country. Make no mistake: this is a new level that all other 49 governors ought to look at, because to say, “I want to see mayors deal with this” and “I want to see city councils deal with this,” is one thing. But to say, “we’re going to hold funds— means that he means it.”
He noted that 20 years ago, when Sharpton organized a March on Washington, Cuomo, then Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, was the only member of Clinton’s cabinet to attend.
“Andrew Cuomo has raised the bar, and I hope every governor in this country will be asked today whether or not they’re going to do what he just did. Somebody has to raise the bar. Then we can say to the Floyd family and others that you really have seen a new day, and we’ve turned a new way in this country. And I think that he has done that and Andrew Cuomo knows that when I don’t think he did whatever, I will tell him. He has gone beyond even my expectations. So enjoy these few minutes. But I think this is a great day.”
Here are more details of the legislation Cuomo signed:
Repealing 50-a (S.8496/A.10611)
Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law creates a special right of privacy for the personnel records of police officers, correction officers, and firefighters and paramedics employed by the State or political subdivisions. The current law prevents access to both records of the disciplinary proceedings themselves and the recommendations or outcomes of those proceedings, leading to records of complaints or findings of law enforcement misconduct that did not result in criminal charges against an officer almost entirely inaccessible to the public.
Repealing 50-a will allow for the disclosure of law enforcement disciplinary records, increasing transparency and helping the public regain trust that law enforcement officers and agencies may be held accountable for misconduct.
Banning Chokeholds (S.6670-B/A.6144)
In 1993, the New York City Police Department completely banned its officers from using chokeholds, but the ban has not prevented police officers from using this method to restrain individuals whom they are trying to arrest and the continued use of chokeholds has resulted in too many deaths. This new law creates criminal penalties when a police officer or peace officer uses a chokehold or similar restraint and causes serious physical injury or death.
Senator Brian Benjamin said, “Criminalizing the use of the chokehold by police or peace officers punishable up to 15 years in prison is an important step that will bringing sorely needed police accountability reform to New York State. It is time that we make it abundantly clear that no one is above the law. This is the first law that I am aware of that establishes an enhanced offense specifically on police officers and that is primarily because those who we hire to protect and serve must be held to a higher standard. I would like to thank the Senate and Assembly for passing the ‘Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act,’ and Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation that will help to save the lives of unarmed black men and women who encounter the police and hopefully begin the process of establishing trust and reducing tensions with law enforcement and communities of color.”
Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley said, “George Floyd and Eric Garner yelled out the same words as they were brutally killed by police officers. We need real change to protect black Americans, and part of that is ensuring there are consequences for misconduct on the part of police officers. This legislation is one of many steps in that direction. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law and hope to continue working with his administration to make our state a fairer and more equal place to call home.”
Prohibiting Race-Based 911 Calls (S.8492/A.1531)
Recent years have shown a number of frivolous and false calls to 911 based on the callers’ personal discomfort with other people and not for any particular threat. This new law makes it a civil rights violation to call 911 to report a non-emergency incident involving a member of a protected class without reason to suspect a crime or an imminent threat.
Senator Kevin Parker said, “Social media is rampant with videos of people weaponizing the 911 emergency system against African-Americans hoping to see them falsely arrested or worse. This legislation is by no means a solution to the systemic injustices and prejudices that fuel these types of calls to the police. However, this law gives victims of this despicable behavior the beginnings of some recourse. I am glad that it was passed, together with other important police reform bills, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing it into law.”
Appointing Attorney General as Independent Prosecutor for Police Involved Deaths (S.2574-C/A.1601)
This new law establishes an Office of Special Investigation within the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases where the death of a person follows an encounter with a law enforcement officer. The law also requires the new Office of Special Investigation to produce a report explaining the reasons for its decision regardless of whether it chooses to pursue charges. This will help improve public confidence in the criminal justice system by removing a potential conflict of interest in these types of investigations. This law builds on the Governor’s Executive Order No. 147 from 2015 which established the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in instances of police-involved deaths.
Assembly Member Nick Perry said, “Over twenty years since police unloaded 41 shots killing Amadou Diallo, nearly six years after the merciless choking of Eric Garner, it took the videos of the heartrending death of George Floyd to finally help us break through the blue wall of silence and resistance to the public cry for criminal justice reform and changes in the prosecution of cases involving death at the hands of the police, who are supposed to protect us. We know that this new law will not end our quest for an assurance for fairness in the process for prosecuting crimes by bad police officers, but it is a big step in the right direction. Millions of New Yorkers and I are delighted that the Governor has signed this bill into law.”
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 oftenraised 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
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
It’s time for real accountability for judges. Here’s how
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 Kozinski, Maryanne Trump-Barry, Brett 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
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
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
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.”
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
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
It should mean policies that recognize the
humanity of trans people and other LGBTQ+ Americans and keep them safe from
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
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 underlyingdrivers of violence
and crime — tackling it at its roots, before it ever has a chance to grow.
Break the school-to-prison pipeline. Schools 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
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 insecurity. Children 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 programs. To improve safety in our
communities, we also need to invest in programs that prevent violence and
divert criminal behavior. Models in cities like Boston, Oakland 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 Crises. The 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 disorder. People 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
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 Drugs. For 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 homelessness. Housing 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 color, LGBTQ+ 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 poverty. A 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
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
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
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-connected. Equal 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
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 Reform. The 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.
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 officersafety. 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.
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 politicalspectrum. 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.
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 measurableimpact 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
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 Reform. Our 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
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.
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 minimums. The 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
End the death penalty. Studies 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
injustices. The 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 prison. Today 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.
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
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.
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.
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 sanctions. Millions 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
Reduce needlessly restrictive parole requirements. Technical 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 reentry. I’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 option. Many 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
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
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.
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
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:
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.
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
Abolishing the death penalty and solitary
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.
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
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
In the waning days of his administration, and in face of what is shaping up to be the most regressive administration intent on reversing the gains hard-fought over a century toward social, political, environmental justice, President Barack Obama is working feverishly to continue to make advances in criminal justice system. Donald Trump has pledged to repeal each and every one of Obama’s executive actions.
The White House issued this Fact Sheet on November 30, 2016:
FACT SHEET: White House Announces New Commitments to the Fair Chance Business Pledge and Actions to Improve the Criminal Justice System
Since the President took office, this Administration has been committed to reforming America’s criminal justice system and highlighting the importance of reducing barriers facing justice-involved individuals trying to put their lives back on track.Over 2.2 million men and women are incarcerated in American prisons, and over 11 million spend time in our jails, and the vast majority of them will return to their communities. Improving education and job opportunities for these individuals has a recognized effect of reducing crime, and will make our communities safer.
Today, the White House is hosting a convening on criminal justice reform to discuss the progress and advancements that have been made over the past eight years and the opportunities that remain to tackle persistent problems. This event is part of the Administration’s continued efforts to bring together Americans who are working to improve the criminal justice system, from activists engaging in communities around the nation to law enforcement and elected officials working to lower the crime and incarceration rates, to formerly incarcerated people who are earning their second chance.
In conjunction with this event, the White House is announcing a round of new signatories to the Fair Chance Business Pledge and a series of Administration actions to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system including:
Final Office of Personnel Management “Ban the Box” Rule
Federal Bureau of Prison Reforms
White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Report
These announcements build on the Administration’s longstanding commitment to reforming the criminal justice system, improving reentry outcomes, and removing unnecessary obstacles facing formerly incarcerated individuals.
Fair Chance Business Pledge
In April, the White House launched the Fair Chance Business Pledge encouraging companies to take action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. The pledge represents a call-to-action for all members of the private sector to improve their communities and expand their talent pools by eliminating unnecessary hiring barriers facing those with a criminal record.
Today’s signatories to the Fair Chance Business Pledge bring the total number of pledged employers to over 300. The companies and organizations that have signed the pledge collectively employ over 5 million Americans. The new commitments come from a diverse range of employers including: Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, CVS Health, Gap, Intel, Kroger, LinkedIn, Monsanto, Perdue Farms, Shinola, Target, Tyson Foods, Union Square Hospitality Group, and WeWork.
Additionally, Glassdoor created a Fair Chance Pledge badge that companies can add to their profile on the website to proudly demonstrate their commitment to maintaining hiring and training programs for individuals with criminal records.
The Department of Justice recently funded the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSGJC) to assist Second Chance grantees and the field at-large through the National Reentry Resource Center. The award includes funding to provide employer-focused outreach and education to promote fair chance hiring practices.A coalition of Fair Chance Business Pledge Signatories has committed to working together with CSGJC and other external partners to share their successes in adopting fair chance hiring practices and encourage other businesses to follow suit.
Today’s announcement is further evidence of the private sector’s support for a more fair justice system, and the Pledge is one of many initiatives where the White House has successfully partnered with the private sector to increase opportunity for all Americans.
By signing the Fair Chance Business Pledge, these companies are:
Voicing strong support for economic opportunity for all, including the approximately 70 million Americans who have some form of a criminal record.
Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to take action to reduce barriers to a fair shot at a second chance, including practices like “banning the box” by delaying criminal history questions until later in the hiring process; ensuring that information regarding an applicant’s criminal record is considered in proper context; and engaging in hiring practices that do not unnecessarily place jobs out of reach for those with criminal records.
THE FAIR CHANCE BUSINESS PLEDGE
We applaud the growing number of public and private sector organizations nationwide who are taking action to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed, including individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system. When around 70 million Americans – nearly one in three adults – have a criminal record, it is important to remove unnecessary barriers that may prevent these individuals from gaining access to employment, training, education and other basic tools required for success in life. We are committed to providing individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to participate in the American economy.
Companies and organizations interested in joining the Fair Chance Business Pledge can do so by signing up HERE.
Today’s signatories include:
Al Abbas Cookies
American Eagle Sealcoating and Asphalt LLC
Andrews Funeral Home
Berry Much Yogurt
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
Butterball Farms, Inc.
C.W. Morris – J.W. Henry Funeral Home
Capital Area ReEntry Coalition
Capitol City Contracting, Inc.
Center for Living and Learning
Colorado Mountain College
Court Programs, Inc.
CPG Partnership Strategies LLC
CSI Saddlepads LLC
D.C. Central Kitchen
Dillard & Associates
Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute
Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color
Fair Chance Workforce Interface LLC
Get Ready Driving Academy
Golden State Foods Corp.
Grandy’s Coney Island
Green Dot Stables
InService Enterprise, LLC
Isidore Electronics Recycling
IT Total Care, Inc.
Jeff’s 40 Minute Cleaners
JSJ Staffing, LLC
Kansas City Community Source, Inc.
The Kroger Company
Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Inc.
Life Restoration CEDA
Los Angeles Black Worker Center
Los Angeles Conservation Corps
Makin’ Movez LLC
Maria’s Italian Kitchen
Mark O’s Bar & Grill
National Dry Goods Company
Newton Brown Urban Design
Nexus Services, Inc.
NXIS Enterprises, LLC
Olive Branch Village Project
O’Neill Construction Group
Oscar’s Coney Island
Pass Job Connection
Perdue Farms, Inc.
Pet Supplies Plus
Phyllis Wheatley Community Center
Portland Bottling Company
Q Stride Inc.
Restoration Law Center
Roman Labor Services Corp.
Root & Rebound
Saucy By Nature
Shinola Detroit, LLC
Skill Source Group
St. Louis Wing Company LLC
Super Tek Group
Taqueria El Nacimiento
TBS Facility Services Group
The CPAI Group, Inc.
The Grey Door Boutique
The Lancaster Food Company
The Last Mile
The National Incarceration Association
The Pate House
The Phax Group, LLC
The Water Station
TransNation Holdings, LLC
Union Square Hospitality Group
Vaughan’s Public House
Virginia Employment Commission
Work in Progress
Federal “Ban the Box” Rule
Today the Office of Personnel Management is finalizing a rule to ensure that applicants with a criminal history have a fair shot to compete for Federal jobs. The rule effectively “bans the box” for a significant number of positions in the Federal Government by delaying the point in the hiring process when agencies can inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer is made. This change prevents candidates from being eliminated before they have a chance to demonstrate their qualifications.
As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government should lead the way and serve as a model for all employers – both public and private. Banning the box for Federal hiring is an important step. It sends a clear signal to applicants, agencies, and employers across the country that the Federal Government is committed to making it easier for those who have paid their debts to society to successfully return to their communities, while staying true to the merit system principles that govern our civil service by promoting fair competition between applicants from all segments of society.
Federal Bureau of Prison Reforms
As part of the Justice Department’s deep commitment to a fair, effective criminal justice system, the Department announced today a series of reforms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) designed to reduce recidivism and increase the likelihood of inmates’ safe and successful return to the community. Today the department released a memo from Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates on reforms to residential reentry centers including covering the cost of obtaining state-issued IDs for inmates prior to their release from custody. Additionally, BOP is creating a semi-autonomous school district within the federal prison system and providing additional services for female inmates when the BOP facility in Danbury, Connecticut, resumes housing female inmates later this month. The Danbury facility will also house BOP’s first-ever integrated treatment facility for female inmates.
Last year, with the Department’s support, BOP retained outside consultants to review the agency’s operations and recommend changes designed to reduce the likelihood of inmates re-offending after their release from prison. As part of today’s announcement, BOP is launching a new website, justice.gov/prison-reform, that compiles current and ongoing reforms at BOP, and includes the final reports from the outside consultants.
White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Report
Co-chaired by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, and staffed by the DOJ Office for Access to Justice, WH-LAIR was established to help provide legal assistance to Americans in need to further our shared goals of breaking the cycle of domestic violence and elder abuse epidemic, ending homelessness among veterans, and helping to remove obstacles to employment for jobseekers. Recognizing the power of legal aid to both increase the availability of meaningful access to justice and improve outcomes in many federal programs, WH-LAIR agencies have been working together since 2012 to integrate legal aid into their programs, policies and initiatives.
The report addresses key federal priorities where civil legal aid improves program outcomes, and also describes agencies’ efforts to partner with legal aid organizations to meet the needs of special populations, including veterans and servicemembers, tribes and tribal members, people with disabilities, people with criminal records, crime victims and disaster survivors.
Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues.
Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14.
In this section, the candidates discuss gun violence and criminal justice.
Gun Violence & Criminal Justice
Guns in America. Secretary Clinton, you’ve said that Vermont, Senator Sanders’ home state, has, quote, “the highest per capita number of guns that end up committing crimes in New York.” But only 1.2 percent of the guns recovered in New York in 2014 were from Vermont. Are you seriously blaming Vermont, and implicitly Senator Sanders, for New York’s gun violence?
CLINTON: No, of course not. Of course not. This is — this is a serious difference between us. (Sanders starts to laugh) And what I want to start by saying — it’s not a laughing matter — 90 people on average a day are killed or commit suicide or die in accidents from guns, 33,000 people a year. I take it really seriously, because I have spent more time than I care to remember being with people who have lost their loved ones.
“So, yes, we have a problem in America. We need a president who will stand up against the gun lobby. We need a president who will fight for commonsense gun safety reforms. (APPLAUSE)
And what we have here is a big difference. Senator Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted for the most important NRA priority, namely giving immunity from liability to gun-makers and dealers, something that is at the root of a lot of the problems that we are facing.
“Then he doubled down on that in the New York Daily News interview, when asked whether he would support the Sandy Hook parents suing to try to do something to rein in the advertising of the AR-15, which is advertised to young people as being a combat weapon, killing on the battlefield. He said they didn’t deserve their day in court. I could not disagree more.
“And, finally, this is the only industry in America, the only one (APPLAUSE) that has this kind of special protection. We hear a lot from Senator Sanders about the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, and I agree. We’ve got to hold Wall Street accountable, well, what about the greed and recklessness of gun manufacturers and dealers in America?” (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
Sanders then attacked her for not answering the question about whether Vermont was responsible for New York’s gun violence, to which Blitzer said, “She said no.”
Sanders then went on to boast how he probably lost his first election for Congress, in 1988, because of the NRA. But the point is that he never challenged the NRA since (even though he now boasts of a D-minus record from the NRA). Caving to lobbyists is not just about who gives money, but who threatens to throw resources at defeating you – in both instances, the lobbyist controls the elected official.
Clinton said as much in her rebuttal:
CLINTON: Well, the facts are that most of the guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from out of state.They come from the states that don’t have kind of serious efforts to control guns that we do in New York.
“But let me say this — in 1988, as we’ve heard on every debate occasion, Senator Sanders did run for the Congress and he lost. He came back in 1990 and he won, and during that campaign he made a commitment to the NRA that he would be against waiting periods.
“And, in fact, in his own book, he talks about his 1990 campaign, and here’s what he said. He clearly was helped by the NRA, because they ran ads against his opponent. So, then he went to the Congress, where he has been a largely very reliable supporter of the NRA. Voting — he kept his word to the NRA, he voted against the Brady Bill five times because it had waiting periods in it. Thankfully, enough people finally voted for it to keep guns out of the hands of who should not have them.” (APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: Senator, you recently said you do not think crime victims should be able to sue gun makers for damages. The daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School who was killed back in the 2012 mass shooting, says you owe her and families an apology. Do you?
SANDERS: What we need to do is to do everything that we can to make certain that guns do not fall into the hands of people who do not have them.
“Now, I voted against this gun liability law because I was concerned that in rural areas all over this country, if a gun shop owner sells a weapon legally to somebody, and that person then goes out and kills somebody, I don’t believe it is appropriate that that gun shop owner who just sold a legal weapon to be held accountable and be sued.
“But, what I do believe is when gun shop owners and others knowingly are selling weapons to people who should not have them — somebody walks in, they want thousands of rounds of ammunition, or they want a whole lot of guns, yes, that gun shop owner or that gun manufacturer should be held liable.”
BLITZER: So, Senator, do you owe the Sandy Hook families an apology?
SANDERS: No, I don’t think I owe them an apology. They are in court today, and actually they won a preliminary decision today. They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue.
CLINTON: Well, I believe that the law that Senator Sanders voted for that I voted against, giving this special protection to gun manufacturers and to dealers, is an absolute abdication of responsibility on the part of those who voted for it.
“This is a unique gift given to only one industry in the world by the United States Congress, as Senator Murphy from Connecticut said, we have tougher standards holding toy gun manufacturers and sellers to account than we do for real guns.
“And the point that Senator Sanders keeps making about how he wouldn’t want a mom and pop store — that was not the point of this. And if he can point to any, any incident where that happened, I would love to hear about it.
“What was really going on, I’ll tell you, because it has a lot to do with New York City. New York City was on the brink of being able to hold manufacturers and dealers accountable through a very carefully crafted legal strategy. The NRA came to their supporters in the Congress and said, stop it, stop it now, and Senator Sanders joined those who did.”
1994 Crime Bill
Errol Lewis, of New York 1 Time Warner Cable News, once again took up an issue that has been used against Clinton: Secretary Clinton, the 1994 crime bill that you supported [when she was First Lady] added 100,000 police officers across the country and banned certain assault weapons. It also imposed tougher prison sentences and eliminated federal funding for inmate education. Looking at the crime bill as a whole, do you believe it was a net positive or do you think it was a mistake?
CLINTON: Well, I think that it had some positive aspects to it. And you mentioned some of them. The Violence Against Women Act, which has been a very important piece of legislation, in my opinion. (APPLAUSE)
“And it also did some things which were to provide more opportunities for young people. So if we were to have the balance sheet on one side, there are some positive actions and changes.
“On the other side, there were decisions that were made that now we must revisit and we have to correct. I think that sentences got much too long. The original idea was not that we would increase sentences for non-violent low-level offenders, but once the federal government did what it did, states piled on.
“So we have a problem. And the very first speech I gave in this campaign was about what I will do to reform the criminal justice system and end the over-mass incarceration.
“So I think that if all of us go and look back at where we were, Senator Sanders voted for the crime bill,and he says the same thing, there were some good things, and things that we have to change and learn from.
“So that’s how I see it. And I think we ought to be putting our attention on forging a consensus to make the changes that will divert more people from the criminal justice system to start, to tackle systemic racism and divert people in the beginning.”
Louis then came back with a second attack: LOUIS: Now earlier this year, a South Carolina voter told your daughter Chelsea, quote, “I think a lot of African-Americans want to hear, you know what, we made a mistake.” Chelsea said she has heard you apologize, but went on to say that if the voter hadn’t heard it then, quote, “it’s clearly insufficient.” Do you regret your advocacy for the crime bill?
CLINTON: Well, look, I supported the crime bill. My husband has apologized. He was the president who actually signed it, Senator Sanders voted for it. I’m sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people’s lives. I’ve seen the results of what has happened in families and in communities.
“That’s why I chose to make my very first speech a year ago on this issue, Errol, because I want to focus the attention of our country and to make the changes we need to make. And I also want people (APPLAUSE) especially I want — I want white people — I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism. It’s also in employment, it’s in housing, but it is in the criminal justice system, as well.” (APPLAUSE)
LOUIS: Senator Sanders, earlier this week at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, you called out President Clinton for defending Secretary Clinton’s use of the term super-predator back in the ’90s when she supported the crime bill. Why did you call him out?
SANDERS: Because it was a racist term, and everybody knew it was a racist term. (APPLAUSE)
“Look, much of what Secretary Clinton said was right. We had a crime bill. I voted for it. It had the Violence Against Women Act in it. When as mayor of Burlington, we worked very hard to try to eliminate domestic violence. This took us a good step forward. We’re talking about the weapon that killed the children in Sandy Hook. This banned assault weapons, not insignificant.
“But where we are today is we have a broken criminal justice system. We have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. And in my view, what we have got to do is rethink the system from the bottom on up. And that means, for a start — and we don’t talk about this. The media doesn’t talk about it — you got 51 percent of African-American kids today who graduated high school who are unemployed or underemployed. You know what I think? Maybe we invest in jobs and education for those kids, not jails and incarceration. (APPLAUSE)
“And I’ll tell you what else. And I’ll tell you what else I think. And that is, we have got — and this is the difference between the secretary and myself as I understand it. We have got to have the guts to rethink the so-called war on drugs. Too many lives have been destroyed because people possessed marijuana, millions over a 30-year period. And that is why I believe we should take marijuana out of the federal Controlled Substance Act.” (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: Well, look, I think that, as Senator Sanders said about what I said, I will say about what he said. I think that we recognize that we have a set of problems that we cannot ignore and we must address. And that is why I have been promoting for my entire adult life the idea of investing early in kids, early childhood education, universal pre-K, like what Mayor de Blasio brought to New York. We have got to help more kids get off to a good start. That’s why I want a good teacher in a good school for every child, regardless of the zip code that child lives in and to be really focused on how we build ladders of opportunity and tear down these barriers that stand in the way of people getting ahead.
Senator Sanders, I have a question for you related to this. So you’ve said that by the end of your first term as president, the U.S. will no longer lead the world in mass incarceration. To fulfill that promise, you’d have to release roughly half a million prisoners. How are you going to do that, since the vast majority of American prisoners are not under federal jurisdiction?
SANDERS: We’re going to work with state governments all over this country. And you know what? In a very divided Congress, and a very divided politics in America, actually the one area where there is some common ground is conservatives understand that it’s insane to be spending $80 billion a year locking up 2.2 million people.
“With federal and presidential leadership, we will work with state governments to make sure that people are released from jail under strong supervision, that they get the kind of job training and education they need so they can return to their communities. On this one, Errol, actually I think you’re going to see progressive and conservative support. We can do it, if we’re prepared to be bold.”