Reducing Prison Population and Policing

Q29: Do you support eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses?

 Clinton: “Excessive federal mandatory minimum sentences keep nonviolent drug offenders in prison for longer than is necessary or useful and have increased racial inequality in our criminal justice system. I have been encouraged to see changes that I supported as Senator to reduce the unjust federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine crimes finally become law, and last year, the Sentencing Commission reduced recommended prison terms for some drug crimes. President Obama and former Attorney General Holder have led the way with important additional steps, and I am looking forward to our new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, carrying this work forward.

I will fight to reform mandatory minimum sentences, including reducing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses by cutting them in half; applying the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactively to allow current nonviolent prisoners to seek fairer sentences; eliminating the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine so that equal amounts of crack and powder cocaine carry equal sentences and applying this change retroactively; reforming the “strike” system to focus on violent crime by narrowing the category of prior offenses that count as strikes to exclude nonviolent drug offenses, and reducing the mandatory penalty for second- and third-strike offenses; and granting additional discretion to judges in applying mandatory minimum sentences by expanding the “safety valve” to a larger set of cases.

We also need to utilize drug diversion programs to deal swiftly with violations, while allowing people who commit low-level offenses and who stay clean and stay out of trouble to stay out of prison. For example, in my policy agenda to address substance use and addiction, I call for prioritizing rehabilitation and treatment over prison for low-level and nonviolent drug offenses and ending the era of mass incarceration..”

Sanders: Yes. “For decades, we have been engaged in a failed “War on Drugs,” with racially-biased mandatory minimums that punish people of color unfairly. Every year, millions of lives are destroyed because people are put in jail for non-violent crimes. We have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. We must become the country in the world that invests in jobs and education, not in jails and incarceration. We need a movement that, once and for all, will end institutional racism in our country and reform a very, very broken criminal justice system.”

Bush: Yes.

Carson: “The objective of should always be creating the best plan for rehabilitation and restoring our citizens to productivity.  Prison for some non-violent offenders is akin to ‘crime university’ teaching them ways to become more hardened and sophisticated criminals.”

Q30: Do you support federal funding for second chance programs that provide reentry rehabilitation, youth crime prevention, work transition services and other initiatives?

Clinton:  “I believe that people who have been involved in the criminal justice system and paid their debts to society should have support and an opportunity to get a fresh start, and that we should provide federal funding for “second chance” programs that would do just that. We should also take additional steps, such as “ban the box” so that applicants have an opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications before being asked about their criminal records, and restoring voting rights to individuals who have served their sentences. As Senator, I cosponsored the Second Chance Act, legislation that would provide expanded reentry services for both youth and adults who have been involved in the criminal justice system. As President, I would continue to support such efforts..”


Sanders:  Yes. “Too many lives in this country are ruined due to unfair mandatory minimums that put people in jail for noon-violent crimes.  As a nation, we need to develop programs that help rehabilitate those unfairly incarcerated.  For example, I supported legislation that aimed to forbid employees from discriminating based on criminal history. If elected president, I would expand federal funding for youth crime prevention programs, as well as other rehabilitation and work transition programs.”

Bush: Yes.

Carson:  “I am an advocate of programs that provide reentry rehabilitation, youth crime prevention, work transition and other initiatives that restore citizens to being productive and responsible contributors to society.  The programs that prove to be most effective are those run by community organizations, churches and private organizations not the government.”

Q31: Do you support fully implementing the policing reform recommendations recently set forth in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Report?  

Clinton:  “President Obama’s task force on policing gives us a good place to start. Its recommendations offer a roadmap for reform, from training to technology, guided by more and better data. And we can go further. For example, I have said that we should make sure that every police department in the country has body cameras to record interactions between officers on patrol and individuals to improve transparency and accountability on both sides of the lens, and as President, I would provide federal matching funds to make that possible. I would also work to strengthen bonds of trust between communities and police by, for example, making new investments to support state-of-the-art law enforcement training programs at every level; strengthening the U.S. Department of Justice’s pattern or practice unit; doubling funding for the U.S. Department of Justice “Collaborative Reform” program; supporting legislation to end racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials; promoting oversight and accountability in use of controlled equipment by limiting the transfer of military equipment by the federal government to local law enforcement; collecting and reporting national data on policing; and creating national guidelines for use of force.” 

Sanders: Yes. “As President, I will work to demilitarize our police forces, and make our communities safer together. Among other things, that means increasing civilian oversight of police departments and to make sure that police forces reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

“As President, I will seek funding for body cameras for law enforcement officers. While body cameras will make it easier to hold officers accountable, recent studies suggests that cameras also resulted in a decrease in the use of force by police by 50 percent and complaints against police by 90. Body cameras incentivize both officers and members of the community to act more civilly towards one another. With greater accountability and oversight, we can develop the relationships necessary to make our communities safer.

“At the federal level we need to establish a new model police training program that reorients the way we do law enforcement in this country. With input from a broad segment of the community including activists and leaders from organizations like Black Lives Matter we will reinvent how we police America.

“Our Justice Department must aggressively investigate and prosecute police officers who break the law and hold them accountable for their actions. We need to require police departments and states to provide public reports on all police shootings and deaths that take place while in police custody.

“We need new rules on the allowable use of force. Police officers need to be trained to de-escalate confrontations and to humanely interact with people who have mental illnesses. States and localities that make progress in this area should get more federal justice grant money. Those that do not should get their funding slashed.”

Bush:  No Comment.

Carson:  “I firmly believe our nation is capable of coming together to heal the recent challenges in many communities that involve well-meaning citizens and policemen, most of whom are dedicated to the mission of protecting our cities and towns across America.”

Q32: Do you believe implicit bias and other forms of racial and gender discrimination exists in the criminal justice system?  If so, please explain how you would address these concerns?

Clinton: “Despite our best efforts and highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.  Race remains a deep fault line in America. Millions of people of color still experience racism in their everyday lives and it plays a role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind.  There is something profoundly wrong when African Americans are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts and when a third of all Black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes. We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance and we need to come together as a nation to find our balance again. And that means grappling with the system inequities that too many Americans face. We need to face inequity, race and justice head on and do what it takes to tear those barriers down once and for all.  As President. I will never stop working on issues of equality and opportunity, race and justice.”


Sanders: Yes. “Right now, African Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and are almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police. It is an outrage that in the 21st century we are seeing intolerable acts of violence perpetuated by police. Racism also exists in sentencing as sentences of blacks are 15 to 20 percent longer than their similarly situated white counterparts. We need a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter, and that racism cannot be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Bush:  No Comment.

Carson: “Bias exists within human beings in general.  The issue is not whether or not we have biases.  The questions is how do we distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable biases and create systems that create fair and appropriate treatment.”

 Q33: Do you support policies that enforce the human rights of incarcerated women not to be shackled during labor and delivery?

Clinton: I believe shackling incarcerated women during labor and delivery is a violation of human rights and dignity as well as an unsafe medical practice.  We should end this practice.

Sanders: Yes. “Shackling pregnant women is inhumane, dangerous and an assault on human dignity. It is also poses a serious health risk to women and their babies. This practice should not be tolerated in a civilized society.”

Bush:  N/A

Carson: “Any practice and procedures need to recognize medically appropriate treatment regardless of their status of incarceration or emancipation.”