One of the big topics at the NAACP’s annual convention in Philadelphia in July was the Criminal Justice system. The field, which has been under ongoing scrutiny amongst Blacks, was not only addressed by President Barack Obama, citing a need for crucial reform, but also by former President Bill Clinton. Both men agreed the current state of the system is not fair in regards to Blacks, but Clinton acknowledged that he may hold part of the blame.
Clinton admitted during a CNN interview earlier this year and re-iterated at the convention that the crime bill he signed into law in 1994 was responsible for the mass incarcerations of thousands of individuals for minor sentences, such as the 46 prisoners who recently had their sentences commuted by President Obama.
Clinton’s apology was heartfelt, touching the lives of millions of Blacks who have been unfairly jailed, in addition to the lives of their family members who have suffered through having a family member unjustly jailed for extensive periods of time, such as Katrina Smith, mother of NFL player Demaryius Thomas, who was recently commuted from her 20-year sentence for drug-trafficking after serving approximately15 years of her sentence.
Even so, the mass incarceration of Black men and women has been an ongoing complaint voiced by the Black community for many years. According to the Huffington Post 56 percent of the population behind bars are composed of Blacks and Latinos, yet, the groups only make up about 30 percent of the country’s population.
So, why did it take more than a decade for Clinton to admit fault? The AFRO is not disputing that streets in the 1990s got safer, but it was at a cost to Black families and lives and the overall progression of Blacks in America.
When Clinton signed the 1994 crime bill, the Democratic Party was determined to solve the crime problem in America, however, more than two decades later, the same party is now focused on reforming the Criminal Justice system. At least the Democratic Party has evolved during that time to finally hear the Black voices and address a festering oversight of this country’s criminal justice system.
In spite of the length of time it has taken the current and previous administrations to address this problem, we must nevertheless applaud President Obama for finally taking the bold steps to correct some of the injustices of this country’s criminal justice system in the final years of his presidency.