NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton will call for every police department in the country to use body cameras to “increase transparency and accountability,” as she pushes for broad criminal justice reform during a speech in New York on Wednesday, an aide said, pushing for an “end the era of mass Incarceration.”
Clinton will react publicly and in person for the first time (she reacted on Twitter on Monday) to the death of Freddie Gray and the Baltimore riots, unveiling some of her first policy proposals since launching her campaign two weeks ago, when she delivers the keynote address at the David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University later Wednesday morning.
“It is heartbreaking,” Clinton said Tuesday night to donors at an off camera Manhattan fundraiser. “The tragic death of another young African-American man. The injuries to police officers. The burning of peoples’ homes and small businesses. We have to restore order and security. But then we have to take a hard look as to what we need to do to reform our system.”
Among Clinton’s prescriptions: probation reform, bolstering treatment for mental health and drug addiction and looking at alternative sentences for lesser offenses, specifically those committed by young people.
Clinton, who has struck a decidedly populist tone in the initial days of her campaign as she tries to appeal to liberal Democrats, is also expected to delve into the issue of race.
She will discuss “the hard truth and fundamental unfairness in our country that today African American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes and sentenced to longer prison terms,” the aide said.
Gray was detained after running away from police for no apparent reason. He was arrested, police said, when they found he was carrying a knife.
Clinton’s stance on criminal justice has changed with the times. As first lady, she lobbied for her husband’s 1994 crime bill, parts of which are now viewed as counterproductive to reducing crime.
The measure significantly built up police forces across the country, funded prisons to increase capacity and put in place tougher sentences, including for some young offenders.
In 2007 in Iowa, during Clinton’s first run for president, she acknowledged an “unacceptable increase in incarceration across the board,” and has since joined the bipartisan ranks of those who support changes to mandatory minimum prison terms for certain crimes, an effort heralded by President Barack Obama in his second term.
Just Monday, in a foreword to a compilation of criminal justice reform prescriptions published by the Brennan Center for Justice, President Bill Clinton admitted the effects of the law, which he championed as he was shifting to the right in the face of a Republican-led congress and at a time that being tough on crime was popular.
“Our nation has too many people in prison and for too long – we have overshot the mark,” Clinton writes, but also defended much of the effort. “So many of these laws worked well, especially those that put more police on the streets.”
The book, “Solutions: America’s Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice,” includes a chapter by Hillary Clinton. Proving what a crowded political space the issue is, it’s sandwiched in between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposals, the former a potential Republican presidential candidate and the other already in the race.
Clinton appears to spell out the parameters for some of her expected policy proposals in the book, calling for “a true national debate about how to reduce our current prison population while keeping our communities safe,” and a unified effort “to keep more nonviolent drug offenders out of prison … to ensure that we don’t create another ‘incarceration generation.'”
By Brianna Keilar
Senior Political Correspondent