tv Criminal Justice and Policing Practices CSPAN December 13, 2014 3:30pm-3:54pm EST
>> i appreciate that. i just wanted to add a couple of words by way of thanks to you for convening this hearing to talk about a very important issue that is to all americans and that is the state of civil and human rights in this country of ours. and i know your focus is primarily going to be on the criminal justice system and i would say that i hope that this hearing will take a long view and not just a short-term view. obviously on our minds, the recent tragedies of what has occurred are fresh, but i think caution would tell us that we ought to wait until there has been a thorough investigation and all of the facts revealed before we draw any conclusions. i also worry that just the recent tragedies will somehow distract us in some ways from the great successes that law
enforcement has had since the crime waves of the 1980's and 1990's. since 1983 -- 1993, violent crime rates are down 48% in this country. law enforcement officer death rates are down 37%. homicide rates are down 50%. robbery rates are down 56% and property crime rates are down 40%. so while we know there are incidents that deserve and must be investigated and follow the facts wherever they must lead, i hope we keep that success in mind as well as part of the overall context. i would finally say we tried to get senator reid to take up some bipartisan legislation. part of which you mentioned earlier. the sentencing act that you and senator cruz and others are working on but also i want to mention the recidivism reduction in public safety act that
senator whitehouse and i co-sponsored in the committee that got unanimous support in the committee, but we have just been unable. we got two people that didn't agree with us yet. we hope to convince them. we were not able to get time on the floor to be able to take that up. my hope is after the new year, that we will be able to get both of these bills up on the floor and debate these issues because i think we have seen that this is not an area of -- where partisanship has any role to play. that working together we can come up with some better solutions in our criminal justice system, even as we insist that the tragedies like the ones that are fresh in our mind are thoroughly investigated and that we leave no stone unturned. >> thank you, senator cornyn. let's get together, all of us interested in those two bills to make sure it is a priority in our new congress. now let me recognize our
colleague, senator cory booker. >> [indiscernible] >> microphone. >> i want to thank chairman and the ranking member for having this, and i want to thank all of my colleagues who are before me, each and every one of you. i have had discussions. very encouraging discussions around these issues. you said very specifically and i want to honor that, that the time for lamentations is past and the time for legislation is upon us. i want to apologize if it seems like i'm going off of that directive, but i will end up right there. this is a very, very this personal issue for me, this evolution of the united states towards its ideals. children from newark, new jersey, to oakland, california, stand up every day and say the pledge of allegiance that we are a nation with liberty and justice for all. but these last few weeks, we have seen tens of thousands of americans taking to the streets
in anguish and rage and frustration. and i agree with senator corning nyn that it is too early in many ways to draw conclusions when there is federal investigations still going on on many of those issues. i appreciate the sensibility of his remarks. but please understand that the anguish that folks are feeling on the streets, the anguish that has penetrated this body and has had me pulled aside by senate pages and many people we walk by in this body who do the dignified, important, yet menial pleaseo have asked me to do something about this. what is that this that they are talking about? i, as many of you know was , raised in a community in which my family in 1969, the year of my birth, was the first black family to integrate this area. my classmates and teammates were
all white growing up. my dearest and closest friends i feel blessed and privileged to have people who are like blood to me of all different backgrounds. i know growing up, our parents talk to us about police officers and behavior, there were dramatic differences between the rotationss -- the x of black parents, latino parents and white parents. i remember distinctly, my parents lecturing me with anger in their voice that did not have the margin of error when it comes to experimenting with drugs or other behaviors that others have. and what i want to do right now is put this in context of what you called us to talk about, which is legislation. and put it to a context to a horrible history in our country that history of bias that we are desperately trying to work our way out of. in my lifetime, we have seen something happen that is remarkable on the planet earth which is the explosion of the
american prison system to the point now where america now has 5% of the globe's population but 25% of the world of humanities imprisoned people and by god, we do not have a country that has more criminals, more criminality, more crime intent people than china or russia or india. and that explosion of criminality has made us see in the last 30 years an 800% increase in the federal prison population. half of those prisoners at the federal level and overwhelming majority on the national level are non-violent offenders. nonviolent. not picking up guns. not beating people in the streets. not assault. we as americans unlike any other country bear the burden of spending a quarter of a trillion dollars carrying this system. and the point that is felt in the anguish of staff i talk to
here in the senate and people protesting is not the specifics necessarily of cases, but of the knowledge that we all have that none of my colleagues, republican or democrat, have denied to me that this system is woefully biased against minorities in our country. the data scream that we all have access to and that we all know that there is no difference, no difference, for example, in marijuana usage between blacks and whites in this country. none whatsoever. the last three presidents of the united states admitted to using marijuana, and i say for the record that one said he did not inhale. [laughter] but yet an african-american is about 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than someone who is white. that is a fact. we know we have a criminal
justice system that has unconscionable outcomes that do not reflect the highest values that children of every ilk pledge allegiance to values that , we swear oath to. that we should have what that building across the way says "powerfully written in stone, equal justice under law. coa what do i mean by some of te things a jump up and call to the conscious of this country? we have a nation where african-americans make up 13% of the u.s. population but 40% of the imprisoned population. in my state, it is 13% and 60-plus% of the prison population, nonviolent offenses. according to the 2012 report for the sentencing commission, drug sentences for african-american men were 13.1% longer. we know that latino youth today, by the age of 23, 44% of latino youth will be arrested.
44%. for not -- many of them -- most of them for nonviolent offenses. we know the sad reality for african-american men. one in three african-american males born today can expect to be incarcerated at some point unless we make change. and when you hear about police violence, trust me. i was a mayor of a great american city. it was challenging and complicated and a constant battle against crime to keep my community safe. these are nuanced issues. we struggled with them in newark. but we know right now that there are 6.5 million people, whites, arrested against about 2.6 million african-americans arrested in a year. that means blacks and whites.
violent and nonviolent crime. 6.5 versus 2.6. white to black. but now someone who is african-american, according to data quoted by my republican colleague rand paul in "time" magazine, are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by a police officer, african-americans 21 times more likely to be shot dead by a police officer than someone white. so i anguish over this fact that my country has been evolving to the dedicated informant acts of black and white through slavery and jim crow. i find myself, a senator, at a time when we have this ironic reality. there are more african-americans now in prison under criminal super vision, prison jail, parole, then all the slaves in 1850.
me as a painful reality because we as a body congress has the power to change , this. and the people, the elected leadership that is showing this most clearly, is not coming from the federal level. it is actually coming from the states and remarkably, refreshingly, it is coming from red states. red state governors with their legislatures, are passing legislation that this body should be passing, that is showing clearly that you can deal with his over-incarceration problem through common sense bipartisan legislation. , the one example i will give as i lead to my close is georgia. the governor has cut spending on prisons. reduced penalties for non-violent offenses and the result of his common sense reforms has been a dramatic reduction in a prison population in guess what?
a 20% reduction over five years in the number of incarcerated african-american men in their state. a 20% reduction. we can say what we want about the details of staten island or ferguson, but there is a larger issue going on. it is anguishing the hearts of young people to cities, neighborhoods, and towns all over our country. the question is enough of the lamentation, when will there be legislation? so i conclude with that call. it is a call that has rang through the ages of our nation that we have something so precious. this week, jews all across our country will be reading a portion of the torah that has a section with these words that are written and inscribed from the torah on the very site that martin luther king was killed.
i had the privilege recently of watching the movie and seeing blacks and whites joining hands and latino americans. in this ideal of america that these issues are not black or white. they are about justice. they are about america. the people of good conscious, when there is clear and patent treatment being given to one body of americans, not to another, that there is a call to act. this idea and this dream and written on that place in memphis, tennessee. the site where one of our great americans, not great black americans. one of our great americans died. words from the torah that call upon us now. " here cometh the dreamer. let us slay him and see what becomes of his streams."
-- his streams." there has been enough death in this country. there has been enough over -incarceration. it is time now that we make the dream real and we through our legislative efforts as illustrated by state after state, can now follow suit, reduce our prison populations. lower crime and save taxpayer money and more effectively herald the highest ideal s of our country. thank you. >> thank you, senator booker. congressman gutierrez. >> thank you chairman durbin, ranking member cruz. thank you senator durbin for inviting me to testify. thank you senator durbin for advocating for justice and equality. i have always valued your advice and counsel, your leadership on the judiciary committee and as chairman of the subcommittee have contributed greatly to our nation in protecting the civil rights of all of us. i came here to say thank you. before i begin, i want to expend my heart felt condolences to the
family and friends of michael brown and eric garner. i think we can all agree that the loss of life is a grave tragedy. as a parent, i want to say to the parents that i am so sorry for your loss. in the wake of the grand jury decisions to not indict the officers involved in the deaths of michael brown and eric garner, communities throughout the country have taken to the streets to protest. many are deeply dissatisfied with the decisions not to prosecute the police officers in ferguson and staten island and transparently examine their actions and the circumstances that led to the death of two unarmed black men. the protests also exposed an equally disturbing issue. that the killings of brown and garner are not isolated issues. i believe the visceral reaction around the country is because these cases represent the countless young men who are treated unjustly by the police and many question their ability to receive justice through the
current court system. these deaths expose gaps in our criminal justice system and the grand jury process and the conflict in bringing charges against law enforcement. clearly we have more work to do to build trust between communities and law enforcement in our system of justice. racial profiling officially or unofficially by some in law enforcement forces blacks and latinos to contend with the criminal justice system in a completely different way than many others in our society. minority communities have a higher prosecution rate and sentences are harsher among the minority defendants. all too often, latinos and blacks are victims of excessive use of force at the hands of rogue police officers.
the issue is only exacerbated when local and state police officers are equipped with military equipment as is the case in ferguson, missouri this past summer. the cycle continues as we saw just last week when the grand jury failed to even call for a trial in open court. it is not surprising that the system breeds mistrust. this vicious cycle not only affects individuals but also affects our african-american and latino communities as a whole. when we see children like michael brown and eric garner and trayvon martin, we see our own families and our own loved ones. ask any latin american parent, whether they live in a suburb or housing project, they will tell you they fear for their children's safety every time they leave the house. rather than thinking of the police as public servants who'll protect their children, too often they think of them as the
harshest their children have to face. i think of my daughter jessica. she was stopped because she was car.ng in too nice of a she was with her friends in her own neighborhood. her mom and dad apparently made the mistake of living in a neighborhood they could afford to live in. not one the police officer thought she should be living in. i was stopped and refused admission to this capitol complex early in my years because, as a capitol hill police officer said i didn't , look like a congressman. it is dangerous when the shooter has a badge or gun. i appreciate your hard work law enforcement officers do to keep our community safe. we have worked to get more cops on the streets, to invest in violence reduction programs and make sure we honor and pay
police officers for the dangerous, often thankless work police officers do. i'm also proud to be an original co-sponsor of the end racial profiling act which i think is clearly and sorely needed. with regard to the revised profiling guidelines yesterday issued by the department of justice, i am deeply disappointed they did not close significant loopholes as they pertain to the department of homeland security which will allow whole sections of america's law enforcement entities including customs, border patrol and transportation security administration to continue to profile many innocent americans. i'm also perplexed and disheartened that the new guidance applies only the federal agency agents. but exempts local, county, and state law-enforcement. civil and human rights today in america today continue to be a work in progress. thanks to the leadership of chairman durbin and many of my colleagues, including those seated with me today, we are
able to celebrate the strides we have made to create an equal and more just nation for all and chart the course for continued progress in the future. it is tempered by knowing that we cannot rest in the pursuit of justice and fairness, especially in the face of tragic and needless cost of life. we have come a long way. senator booker is a testament to that. my buddy, keith, is a testament to that. i hope to be a testament to that. let's continue to do the good work. i thank you for your wonderful leadership. >> thank you. congressman ellison of minnesota. >> thank you very much and also thank you to the ranking member and thank you to my fellow senators, senator klobucher. and the entire panel. i was very moved by the words of my fellow panelists. they were amazing and i want to say ditto to everything they said. last week, a 15-year-old was run
over by a man in an s.u.v. and that bumper sticker on his car said islam is worse than ebola. but today i'm not here to talk and focus on private hate crimes and discrimination although that , deserves all the attention that we can muster. today, i would like to talk about the discrimination that happens at the hands of state actors. i think we should shine a light on all forms of discrimination , but i think the events that we have seen over the last few weeks demonstrates how very important it is for the state and people who act on behalf of the state to get it right. people have a legitimate higher expectation of people who operate on behalf of the state. our government is a democratic government undergirded by a constitution and the people have every right to believe that the government is there to protect the general welfare.
that makes it all the more disappointing when people who operate on behalf of the state fail to live up to that expectation. people have a right to believe that they will be dealt with justly and fairly by the state, but when the state violates people's rights, it is to wonder -- it is fair for people to wonder who is going to protect , my rights if the state will not. that is why people are particularly incensed by encounters between citizens and law enforcement. people are grateful for law enforcement. we believe in law enforcement. i am grateful for law enforcement and i know people who are in law enforcement, most of them go into it because they want to help people. but when they fail and when excessive force is employed, it is incredibly disappointing and it shakes people's confidence in what the state is supposed to do for them, which is to protect them and promote their welfare. the injustice we have seen over the past week is not new. not the first time that the
police have been video taped using excessive force. none of us can ever forget rodney king. it is not the first time people died in police custody and it is not the first time that a grand jury has vetoed justice. why are people walking around with their hands up saying i can't breathe? why are people saying don't shoot? why are they proclaiming these things all over cities in america? it is because of a long train of abuses, not one particular case. people who want to argue over the nuance of one recent case in the news or another are free to do so, but no one can deny the unmistakable pattern between police and community, particularly black community and men in that community. we can talk about eric garner and michael brown, but what about tamara rice, 12 years old? what about darren hunt who had a