Hillary Clinton Just Made a Powerful Speech about America's Prison Crisis

April 29th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton spoke at Columbia University about the problems within our criminal justice system. There, she discussed the recent events in Baltimore, from the death of Freddie Gray to Monday's riots, and called for reform to our criminal justice system.

"For yet again the family of a young black man is grieving a life cut short," Clinton began. "Yet again the streets of an American city are marred by violence, by shattered glass, and shouts of anger, and shows of force. Yet again a community is reeling, its fault lines laid bare and its bonds of trust and respect frayed. Yet again brave police officers have been attacked in the line of duty. What we have seen in Baltimore should -- indeed I think does -- tear at our soul.

"From Ferguson, to Staten Island, to Baltimore the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable," Clinton continued. She then went on to remember Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner, who all died tragically at the hands of the police.

"Not only as a mother and a grandmother, but as a citizen -- a human being -- my heart breaks for these young men and their families. We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America," Clinton said. "There is something profoundly wrong when African American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced for longer prison terms than are [handed] out to their white counterparts."

The former Secretary of State acknowledged that the system is unfairly stacked against those who are most vulnerable and noted that fixing it is a bipartisan issue -- one that has brought Senators Corey Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) together to find a solution.

Clinton also shared her plan for fixing the system: new creative strategies to strengthen the relationship between police officers and communities, and federal and state funds to "bolster best practices" and not to buy "weapons of war." She also called for body cameras for every police officer on patrol to improve transparency. 

Clinton went beyond just law enforcement reform and spoke about the root cause of many issues: poverty and lack of education.

Her strongest point came towards the end of her speech, when Clinton discussed mass incarceration. Clinton discussed the many low-level offenders who are in prison.

"Keeping them behind bars does little to reduce crime, but it does a lot to tear apart families and communities," Clinton said. "One in 28 children in our country now has a parent in prison. Think about what that means for those children."

"Without the mass incarceration that we currently practice, millions fewer people would be living in poverty," she continued.

Clinton also discussed the importance of mental health care, stating that prisons have become our new mental health institutions -- and this needs to change.

The 2016 presidential candidate ended on a positive note: "This is a time for wisdom," Clinton said. "A time for honesty about race and justice in America, and yes a time for reform."

Watch below: