(Screenshot via YouTube)
When Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders stopped through Philadelphia to host town hall-style speaking engagements this past April, local criminal justice reform advocate Bill Cobb was on a mission.
Cobb, who spent nearly seven years incarcerated in the 1990s and now runs reentry nonprofit REDEEMED PA, made a point of getting himself in front of Clinton to press her on the 1994 crime bill that “put over 100,000 police on the street” and “built prisons across our country.”
And he did it twice — first on ABC prior to the event, then again during the town hall on MSNBC.
“I really appreciate the fact that you are now championing criminal justice reform. However, what made the 1994 crime bill so powerful is that it was front-loaded with an investment of $30 billion dollars,” Cobb said to Clinton on MSNBC. “My question to you is, if you’re elected president of the United States, are you willing to make billion-dollar investments and restore the lives of people in the communities that have been adversely impacted by the 1994 crime bill?”
Clinton’s answer? First, implement diversionary programs to keep young adults out of prison and address the systemic racism that plagues the criminal justice system.
“A young African-American man is more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted and incarcerated for doing exactly the same thing as a young white man who doesn’t suffer any of that,” said Clinton in response.
Clinton also expressed the need to release non-violent, low-level offenders from prisons and jails, which Philadelphia is already working on thanks to a $3.5 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation.
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The presidential candidate gave a nod to Kensington-based nonprofit Impact Services before ending her response with a call to action that surely resonated with Cobb as continues his work mobilizing the reentrant vote.
“We need to be providing people with the services and support they deserve to be back in society,” said Clinton. “Then we need to restore voting rights for everybody.”