- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders both laid out their proposals for criminal justice reform, voicing frustration at the current system and especially at police officer conduct in African American communities.

“We can no longer continue to sweep it under the rug, it has to be dealt with,” said Mr. Sanders, referring to the mass incarceration of African American men. Mr. Sanders blamed over-policing of African American communities for many of these arrests, citing although blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rates, African Americans are more likely to be arrested for it.

“We need fundamental police reform – clearly,” said Mr. Sanders. “We are sick and tired of seeing videos on television of unarmed people, often African Americans, shot by police officers.”

Mrs. Clinton was also sympathetic of on the issue, and spoke of the untimely death of Donte Hamilton, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Milwaukee. The officer wasn’t prosecuted for the crime as the district attorney found the use of force to be self-defense. Mr. Hamilton was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.

“We have to restore policing that will actually protect the communities that police officers are sworn to protect,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And then we have to go after sentencing.”

Then Mrs. Clinton pivoted, saying there was “systemic racism” not only in the criminal justice system but in education and employment as well.

“When we talk about criminal justice reform and ending the era of mass incarceration, we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing and other ways of helping these communities do better.”

The “Black Lives Matter” movement and other civil rights activists have been pressuring the Democratic candidates to more forcefully speak on African American issues – and to address all areas of discrimination. Mr. Sanders has been criticized from the community has being one-note, only speaking about economic inequality issues but being reluctant to speak on racism.

• Kelly Riddell can be reached at kriddell@washingtontimes.com.

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