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(20/20) Criminal Justice Forum With Biden, Sanders, Trump &Warren

Bears Bad News For Private Prison & Bail Bond Industries

Republicans and Democrats alike spoke out strongly against the private prison industry — and in general, the for-profit motive connected to policies like cash bail — at the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center’s Second Step Presidential Criminal Justice Forum hosted by Benedict College this past weekend.

The 2020 Bipartisan Justice Center was founded in March 2015, in advance of the 2016 presidential election — bringing together 20 Black Democrats and 20 Black Republicans to build a bipartisan, single-issue constituency for criminal justice reform. It was significant to hold this year’s forum at Benedict College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) founded in 1870, with over 74% first-generation college students, 80% of whom receive some form of financial assistance, and a number of whom, according to Benedict College officials, have experienced the terrible impacts of the criminal justice system firsthand within their families and communities.

The forum broadly focused on a number of key issues where there has been some alignment between conservatives and liberals alike, such as ending mandatory minimums, eliminating the crack-cocaine sentencing disparity, and funding better reintegration efforts. The bipartisan nature of the weekend, and Trump’s involvement, inevitably led to significant controversy given Trump’s extremely low approval ratings with the Black community nationally — less than 4% of recently polled African Americans think “Trump’s actions have been good for African Americans in general.” But it also provided the Democratic candidates their first opportunity to really go deep on their perspectives regarding criminal justice, a top issue for Black voters, and for voters of all backgrounds: an ACLU poll in 2017 found 91% support for criminal justice reform across the board.

Notions of economic injustice were embedded throughout this criminal justice conversation. As Senator Cory Booker noted at the top of the event, citing a Vanderbilt University study, “we would have 20% less poverty in America if we had incarceration levels the same as our industrial peers.” Many also candidates used this opportunity to articulate their platforms to increase funding for reentry programs, invest in police accountability, and make sure that former felons aren’t barred from economic opportunities (by implementing initiatives like “ban the box,” ensuring eligibility for both jobs and housing upon release).

Notably, all ten democratic candidates who presented spoke strongly against private prisons and cash bail, while the President and presumed Republican candidate, Donald Trump, did not speak to either issue, despite members of his party speaking harshly about private prisons.

[Read the rest on Forbes, here]

Conservative strategist Holly Harris spoke against the private prison industry and it’s effects on mass incarceration

On Friday, Republicans were given the opportunity to speak about their priorities. Donald Trump gave an hour speech that focused on congratulating those involved with the First Step Act, a bipartisan, criminal justice reform bill passed in December of 2018, and reflected a paucity of concrete plans moving forward to continue to address the great need for additional criminal justice reform in America.

In his speech, Trump noted only two concrete proposals moving forward, without offering any systemic policy solutions. First, his desire to give clemency to more people, which could certainly help a few individuals, but is not, in itself, a policy. Second, the need to provide people with adequate representation in the legal system — also a great step, but less helpful without addressing policies like mandatory minimums and crack-cocaine sentencing distinctions that set the confines within which legal advocates, and even sympathetic judges, can operate.

A panel of Republicans spoke more directly to the private prison industry. Notably, Holly Harris, Executive Director of the Justice Action Network and conservative campaign strategist from Kentucky, spoke at length to the harm she and others have observed in her state. “I’m not a fan of for-profit prisons; they have a terrible history in Kentucky. There was a rash of rapes of women that were covered up; the environment was so toxic that a prison guard actually committed suicide.” She also referenced starvation experienced by incarcerated individuals in private prisons. More generally, from a conservative perspective, she later quoted a Republican mentor, “Conservatives are all for more privatization. But we should privatize things we want more of, not less of.”

With a different perspective, Conservative Florida House of Representatives’ Byron Donalds, FL-District 80, noted that the private facilities he’d visited had helpful job training programs — kicking off a conversation about how such reentry services are critical for reducing recidivism, regardless of facility ownership.

[Read the rest on Forbes, here]

What a wonderful display of black unity around the single issue of Criminal Justice Reform.

7 HBCU’s, White House Staff, State Legislators, Mayors, Council-members, Police, Community Activists and Presidential Candidates United to address the Civil Rights issue of our day. CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

The only interests that are truly mad, are the ones who profit of the broken system. They are silent but present in this moment.

Lastly, everyone pledged their support for the 2nd Step that isn’t event written yet.

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