WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The comment came as the United States has faced multiple protests over the killing of mostly unarmed African Americans by police as well as criticism from community leaders of a justice system that unfairly targets African-Americans.
Earnest noted there are some “common sense” reforms that could be supported by Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress, including reforming sentencing laws for individuals convicted of non-violent drug offenses.
“I think people have raised legitimate concerns about whether or not those individuals are best served and whether the country is best served by these individuals spending decades in prison,” Earnest stated.
On Wednesday, US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took up the issue and said the United States should put an end to the era of mass incarceration. She pointed out that the cost of incarcerating one person exceeds the average annual salary of a teacher or a police officer, and that former prisoners often face unemployment and poverty.
The United States has the largest prison population in the world. Nearly 50 percent of all inmates are in prison on non-violent drug-related offences, according to the US Bureau of Prisons. Nearly 40 percent of inmates are African American.
Slightly under 7 million people were “under some form of correction supervision” in 2013, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of that number, nearly 4.5 million were on probation or parole, while approximately 2.2 million were in state or federals prisons or local jails.