02:55 GMT21 October 2020
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    Barack Obama called for mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes to be eliminated or reduced, urged states to do away with laws that prevent convicted felons from voting and called to have more job training programs for those in prison.

    PHILADELPHIA (Sputnik) — US President Barack Obama is taking some big risks in announcing his sweeping criminal justice reform plan, one that is likely to be met with some opponents, President and CEO for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Cornell William Brooks, said.

    Brooks was speaking on the sidelines of the civil rights group’s 106th Annual Convention.

    "The president is taking some major risk here, he’s standing on the side of people that have been despised, people that have been dehumanized, people that have been locked away and cast out of society…" Brooks told reporters on Tuesday. "It’s a bold statement it’s a bold reform plan, but the president understands all too well, he cannot do this alone, Congress can’t do it alone, we have to stand with him."

    On Tuesday, Obama outlined his administration’s plan to reform the criminal and juvenile justice system. The President called for mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes to be eliminated or reduced, urged states to do away with laws that prevent convicted felons from voting and called to have more job training programs for those in prison.

    The US president also asked the Congress to pass sentencing reform bill by the end of the year, to invest rather in "alternatives" to prison.

    When asked what challenges Obama would still face in rolling out his criminal justice reform policy, Brooks said it would depend on "bringing fiscal conservatives" and align them with "progressive moral conservatives, moral liberals who want to see a criminal justice system that reflects redemption."

    "Our lives can’t really matter if we can be profiled at will, our lives don’t really matter if in fact we can be as a people, sentenced under draconian drug laws. Our lives, our life as a country matters less if you have 2.3 million people behind bars," Brooks said.

    The announcement of Obama’s criminal justice policy reform comes at a time when the national spotlight has shifted to the issue of racial inequality amid several cases of police killings of unarmed African-American men. US grand juries have chosen not to indict the officers responsible for the high-profile deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson or Eric Garner in New York City.

    Over the past year, Obama has launched several policy initiatives in the wake of the renewed calls to improve race relations. The US president’s initiatives over the course of the year have included investing in police body-worn cameras for US law enforcement agencies around the country, a plan targeting segregation in US neighborhoods and most recently, commuting the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders – the highest number of commutes in well over half a century.

    Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus, an organization representing the black members of the US Congress, is in the midst of putting together its own policy agenda geared at fixing the criminal justice system, its chair G.K. Butterfield announced on Monday at the NAACP Convention.


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    reform, justice, US Congress, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Cornell William Brooks, Barack Obama, United States
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