Hillary Clinton delivered the keynote address at the 18th Annual Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum today, addressing directly criminal justice reforms she would like to see to prevent another “incarceration generation.”
“It’s time the end the era of mass incarceration,” Clinton declared to much applause, citing statistics about the disproportionately higher rate of incarceration that black men in America face. Clinton called for massive reform for criminal justice, including creating or expanding probation and drug diversion programs designed to keep low-level offenders out of prison, drug treatment alternatives, and pursuing alternative options for mental health support.
“Our prisons and our jails are now our mental health institutions,” Clinton said, calling for an end of budget cuts for mental health facilities and hospitals providing mental health services, as well as comprehensive treatment for mental health patients.
Clinton also directly addressed the uprisings happening in Baltimore following the mysterious death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody last week. “My heart breaks for these young men and their families,” she said, naming other unarmed black men who have been killed by police over the past year. She noted that the patterns of police brutality against black men in America “have become unmistakable, and undeniable.”
Clinton also quoted an article in USA Today, which wrote that between two Baltimore neighborhoods separated by only 6 miles, there is a 20-year difference in the average life expectancy. “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America,” Clinton said. “These challenges are all woven together, and they all must be tackled together.”
An annual event, the Dinkins Leadership Forum held at Columbia University addresses “many of the challenging issues including education, the environment, labor, tourism, immigration and fiscal crises that successful and urban ecosystems must contend with.” Other speakers included David Dinkins, who served as mayor of New York City in the 1990s, and was the first and only African American mayor of the city so far.