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Wed Aug 12, 2015, 04:22 PM

How Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley want to address racial injustice.

In July, at the progressive conference Netroots Nation, activists took the stage at a town hall with Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley. The activists challenged both candidates to make racial and criminal justice a bigger part of their campaigns.

"I want to hear concrete actions. I want to hear an action plan," activist Patrisse Cullors told O'Malley. "And we want to hear it from Bernie Sanders too.". .

Only a few weeks later, the activists have what they asked for. O'Malley's campaign put out a criminal justice platform on July 31. On Saturday, activists again interrupted Sanders at a rally in Seattle: "You have yet to put out a criminal justice package like O'Malley did," said Marissa Johnson. By Sunday night, the Sanders campaign had released an agenda for "Racial Justice."

The proposals aren't identical — for one thing, Sanders's is much vaguer — but they're strikingly similar. Some of the candidates' proposals, like an end to many or all mandatory minimum prison sentences, enjoy support in both parties. Others, like preserving and expanding voting rights, are longstanding beliefs within the Democratic Party. But several of the themes and proposals in O'Malley and Sanders's platforms trace what could be an emerging, specifically Democratic view of racial and criminal justice — one that combines "smart on crime" ideas pioneered by the Obama administration with critiques of race relations in 2015 from black America. . .

Sanders lists things that should happen; O'Malley explains how he'd make them happen

O'Malley's platform, which was released July 31, is much more specific than Sanders's.

O'Malley's platform, meanwhile, shows that he approaches the issue in part through immigration — an issue on which, unlike criminal justice, O'Malley's progressive cred is solid. His platform addresses immigration detention and prosecution alongside the main federal criminal system. O'Malley's platform also shows why the details matter: It makes clear which proposals would be achieved through executive action (by, say, directing the Department of Justice to prioritize certain types of cases) and which would be up to Congress and simply "encouraged" by President O'Malley.

The details don't just make it clear that someone on O'Malley's campaign understands what a president can and can't change about the criminal justice system; they also show some proposals are higher priorities than others. O'Malley wants to end the death penalty, for example, but he's not proposing to pressure the FDA to get involved with lethal injection protocols; instead, he just wants to "build a consensus" among states.


Details matter. http://omly.us/details-matter

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