Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mrs. Clinton to Break Down Barriers?

Hillary Clinton stood before a cheering crowd and claimed "victory" tonight in South Carolina. She told her audience that she would "break down barriers" by giving "special assistance" to "historically black colleges and universities." We desire that she give an acceptable - nothing "special," just an acceptable about of - assistance to the thousands and thousands of young African American men who are languishing in federal prisons because of the politics and policies of her husband.

The Nation recently observed:
When Clinton left office in 2001, [in seven states], African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.” [As] unemployment rates sank to historically low levels for white Americans in the 1990s, the jobless rate among black men in their 20s who didn’t have a college degree rose to its highest level ever. This increase in joblessness was propelled by the skyrocketing incarceration rate. Why is this not common knowledge? Because government statistics like poverty and unemployment rates do not include incarcerated people. [When] Clinton left office in 2001, the true jobless rate for young, non-college-educated black men (including those behind bars) was 42 percent. This figure was never reported. Instead, the media claimed that unemployment rates for African Americans had fallen to record lows, neglecting to mention that this miracle was possible only because incarceration rates were now at record highs. Young black men weren’t looking for work at high rates during the Clinton era because they were now behind bars—out of sight, out of mind, and no longer counted in poverty and unemployment statistics.\
In addition:
The Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for prisoners seeking higher education to prepare for their release, supported laws denying federal financial aid to students with drug convictions, and signed legislation imposing a lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense—an exceptionally harsh provision given the racially biased drug war that was raging in inner cities. Perhaps most alarming, Clinton also made it easier for public-housing agencies to deny shelter to anyone with any sort of criminal history (even an arrest without conviction) and championed the “one strike and you’re out” initiative, which meant that families could be evicted from public housing because one member (or a guest) had committed even a minor offense.
On the a pardon front - the breaking down barrier front, if you will - last year a former U.S. Pardon Attorney noted:
"I have no feeling about how Mrs. Clinton will approach these [issues]. I have no feeling. In fact I have a little bit of a feeling that she may not be real enthusiastic about talking about criminal justice issues.  Certainly her husband, with all due respect, did more to damage the federal justice system than any body else. And he also damaged the federal clemency system, in a very ... of course, his Justice Department contributed to that, frankly, but he certainly did his part to bring into disrepute that system."
Break down barriers indeed.

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