A group of minority journalists, including a representative from this publication, recently gathered in Denver to discuss the upcoming presidential race and one editor of a Latino newspaper apologized for being late.
“I stopped at a store and just missed a shooting,” he explained, still visibly shaken and angry.
Sadly, this group representing African American and Latino media wasn’t surprised by this kind of violence in the middle of the afternoon. Like other cities, Denver’s neighborhoods are being terrorized by devastating violence. These journalists have reported for years about our prisons having a disproportionate number of minorities for a variety of reasons, including the lack of economic opportunity.
On this day, the veteran journalists all agreed they are tired of being told by presidential candidates that things will change every election cycle only to see more African American and Latinos end up in the criminal justice system.
They are angry and want accountability from our leaders, not just empty talk.
As a former mayor, I often grappled with keeping our streets safe and trying to deal with the reasons so many of our minority youth and adults turn to crime. And as the city’s first black mayor, my policies of being tough on crime often split the black community. But, like Hillary Clinton, I fought for criminal justice reform because the system we have now is broken.
In her first major speech of the campaign, Clinton said we must address hard truths about race and justice in order to reform our criminal justice system. She called for an end to the “era of mass incarceration.”
And as the minority journalists requested, she has a concrete plan to address many issues.
As president, Clinton said she will reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses; reform the “strike” system to focus on violent crime; eliminate the sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine; and reduce marijuana from a Schedule 1 to Schedule 11 substance to allow accepted medical use.
She also has a plan to address many of the issues that lead to incarceration, including racial profiling by police; requiring body cameras for all police; holding police departments accountable for unconstitutional policing; and ongoing training for all police.
Additionally, she recognizes the need to help former offenders reenter society without the stigma of their crime. As president, Clinton would take executive action to “ban the box,” which now requires anyone applying for a job to reveal a criminal history. Studies show that a criminal history reduces the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent, despite the applicant’s qualifications.
And we wonder why so many offenders end up back in prison.
This doesn’t mean that Clinton won’t be tough on criminals but she is the only candidate to admit what we are doing now is promoting more crime. She is the only candidate who is willing to reform the system and address issues that have plagued our communities for decades.
That group of minority journalists rightly want a candidate who will “walk the talk” instead of empty promises. They’re sick of reporting on the crime in our neighborhoods and quite frankly I’m sick of reading about too many of our minority youth ending up dead or in prison.
Thankfully, we have a candidate in Hillary Clinton who hears our disgust and anger and isn’t afraid to address criminal justice reform head-on.
Editor’s note: Wellington Webb served as Denver’s first African American mayor from 1991-2003. He is the only mayor to be elected president to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Conference of Black Mayors and the National Conference of Democratic Mayors.