Days after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laid out proposals for criminal justice reform at Columbia University, former Republican candidate Mitt Romney took time to criticize the presidential hopeful’s comments about Baltimore and mass incarceration.
In her speech, Clinton argued that “without the mass incarceration that we currently practice, millions fewer people would be in poverty,” before diving into the unemployment rate of formerly incarcerated persons, and the exorbitant costs of state prisons. She called for the United States to “end the era of mass incarceration,” and discussed the failures of mandatory minimum sentences, the need to invest in probation and drug diversion programs, and the impact of high incarceration rates on African American communities in particular.
Yet, during a Fox and Friends segment, Romney attacked Clinton and even denied that mass incarceration is a real problem:
I was concerned that her comments smacked of politicization of the terrible tragedies that are going on there. When she said we’re not going to have mass incarcerations in the future, what is she referring to? We don’t have mass incarcerations in America. Individuals are brought before tribunals, and they have counsel. They’re given certain rights. Are we not going to lock people up who commit crimes?” he asked.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, there are 208,859 federal inmates, slightly below a national high of 219,218 in 2013. On December 31, 2013, there were 1.57 million inmates in federal, state, and county prisons and jails. According to some estimates the number of people behind bars is closer to 2.4 million (the 2013 figure excludes many individuals who served short county jail sentences). One in three people in the U.S. has a criminal record, and the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world.