The history of racism in the United States continues to lead to disparity between blacks and whites in the U.S. judicial system, President Obama argued in a new Harvard Law Review article.
From Washington Examiner
The U.S. “cannot deny the legacy of racism that continues to drive inequality in how the justice system is experienced by so many Americans,” Obama argued in the 56-page article.
Criminal justice reform, Obama wrote, cannot be addressed without “the role of race and bias in shaping the policies that led us to this point.”
“And in too many communities — especially communities of color and those struggling with poverty and addiction — the justice system has touched almost every family,” he said. “The costs of maintaining this system are nothing short of breathtaking.”
Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review when he was a 28-year-old law school student, and while he has pushed for criminal justice reforms during his last few years in office, a bill he supported never made it out of the Senate. Still, he used his article to call on Congress to act in areas where there is “increasing bipartisan agreement.”
Obama instead has taken action on his own, including granting clemency to more than 1,100 federal prisoners. He has also called on state and local justice systems to make changes.
There is still “much work” to be done for the incoming Trump administration, Obama wrote, such as sentencing reform legislation and spreading the use of body-worn cameras for law enforcement.
The need for criminal justice reform is now “urgent,” Obama said, citing statistics that show in addition to the monetary burden, the U.S. incarcerates nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
“[T]he extent of incarceration in the United States is not just unnecessary but also unsustainable. And it is not making our communities safer,” Obama wrote. He said the total costs of incarceration, including those that aren’t monetary, “only begin to capture the true costs of our flawed approach to criminal justice.”
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