Obama Outlines Vision for Criminal Justice Reform

All the news that's fit to fix for Tuesday, March 3.
President Barack Obama outlined a broad vision for criminal justice reform. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Mar 3, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Steven Gray's work has appeared in The Washington Post, Time, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, and Le Monde.

On Monday, President Obama outlined a broad vision for overhauling the nation’s criminal justice system. He suggested law enforcement agencies use independent investigations and special prosecutors, especially after fatal police interactions with citizens. He called for the creation of a National Crime and Justice Task Force, increased data collection, deeper police engagement in neighborhoods beyond law enforcement, and a rethinking of how the federal government distributes military equipment to local police agencies.

“The more there is trust between communities and law enforcement, the safer it is for cops, the more effectively they can do their jobs, the more cooperation there is going to be, the more likely those communities are going to be safe,” the president said at the White House.

The president's recommendations are the product of a special task force on criminal justice reform he created last December, partly in response to the uproar over the deaths of unarmed black males at the hands of police officers in Ferguson, Missouri; New York; and Cleveland. The task force and its recommendations are the latest examples of how the Obama administration is veering deeper into the national conversation about how law enforcement interacts with society’s most vulnerable citizens.

In February, FBI Director James Comey delivered an unusual address in Washington during which he acknowledged deep rifts between law enforcement and black and Latino communities. That month, Attorney General Eric Holder said a moratorium should be imposed on the death penalty.

In recent days, the president has met with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House to discuss criminal justice reform. The bipartisan effort is being driven by concern about the escalating costs of incarcerating a large share of the population. In some quarters, it’s being driven simply by a sense of social justice. Who knows where the conversations will lead.

In other news...

Tamir Rice: Frank Jackson, the mayor of Cleveland, on Monday apologized for the “insensitive” language city attorneys used to respond to a lawsuit brought by the family of Tamir Rice. The city argued that Rice, a 12-year-old black boy fatally shot by Cleveland police last November, was responsible for his own death. (via Cleveland Plain-Dealer and The New York Times)

Climate Change: Did climate change fuel Syria’s civil war? A new report argues that climate change and a severe drought drove the exodus of Syria’s farmers and, in turn, the country’s civil war. (via National Geographic)

Black Environmentalists: Pacific Standard explores why there are so few black environmentalists. It’s a good question, especially given the high concentration of environmental hazards in predominantly black communities.

Ebola: Sierra Leone is on guard for an expanding Ebola outbreak. (via The Associated Press)

Food: Americans spend about 10 percent of our income on food. That’s a decline from about 17.5 percent in 1960, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (via National Public Radio)

Coffee Tots: Fifteen percent of parents say their two-year-olds drink coffee, according to a new study. (via Bloomberg)

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