Hillary Clinton Tells Black Lives Matter She Wants To Eliminate Private Prisons

CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, during a campaign stop at the Westfair Amphitheater in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton met with a group of Black Lives Matter activists in Washington, D.C. on Friday, telling the group she wants to eliminate private prisons and is working on a more detailed criminal justice platform.

Activists spoke with Clinton for roughly 90 minutes, pushing her on various aspects of criminal justice including mass incarceration and racial justice, before meeting with members of her campaign staff. Those in the meeting said that Clinton vowed to end the private prison industry, as her competitor Bernie Sanders is attempting to do with legislation.

“She noted that she specifically wants to focus on ending funding to private prisons as the way to end them,” Deray McKesson, an activist known for his large Twitter following and his involvement in the protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, said on Twitter after the meeting.

Zellie Imani, an activist and teacher who was in the meeting, told ThinkProgress it was the first time Clinton publicly stated her opposition to private prisons.

“We obviously support the ending of private prisons but we also want to talk about the investments of private prisons in general,” he said, adding that the group still has questions it would like Clinton to answer.

“We want to talk to her about private prison lobbyists who may have donated money to her campaign,” he said. “What is she going to do about that money? Is she going to return it? Is she going to make an acknowledgement of those funds being donated to her? How can you end private prisons and still take these donations?”

The activists in the meeting included representatives from Campaign Zero, a group that came up with a blueprint in August for how to end police violence. Ahead of the meeting, activists told Buzzfeed they planned to press the Democratic candidate on her plans to address criminal justice, mass incarceration, and racial issues in the United States.

On Thursday night — shortly before the meeting — Clinton was interrupted by an undocumented immigrant while she addressed the annual Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gala in Washington, D.C. The immigrant urged Clinton to stop receiving donations from the Corrections Corporation of America and The Geo Group, two of the largest private prison operators of immigrant detention facilities nationwide. Clinton has previously aired her concerns about immigration detention centers, but has never before said she wants to eliminate private prisons.

The meeting with Black Lives Matter comes after the movement has pushed the candidate to elaborate on her criminal justice positions. She has previously spoken with members of the movement in a private meeting following a campaign stop in New Hampshire. In that meeting, activists were able to ask her about mass incarceration and drug policy, issues they said they want her to address further.

She has also spoken about police violence and has put forward a criminal justice plan which includes a call for the end of mass incarceration and a call for body cameras for every police department in the country.

Clinton reportedly told the activists in Friday’s meeting that she will soon be releasing a more detailed platform on criminal justice and race.

Before the meeting, a Clinton campaign aide told CNN the meeting would be “important.”

“We sort of see this meeting as part of an ongoing conversation that we are having with different parts of the movement and other stake holders, activists and people who have been working on criminal justice issues and sentencing reform,” the aide said.