POLITICS

Hillary Clinton: 'There Is Something Profoundly Wrong' In Our Criminal Justice System

04/29/2015 11:15 am ET | Updated Apr 29, 2015

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton on Wednesday used her first major policy speech as a 2016 presidential candidate to draw attention to the death of Baltimore's Freddie Gray, saying it was part of an "undeniable" pattern in which black men in America are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system.

"What we have seen in Baltimore should -- indeed, I think does -- tear at our soul," said Clinton in her keynote address at the 18th annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University.

"From Ferguson, to Staten Island, to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable," Clinton added. "Walter Scott shot in the back in Charleston, South Carolina -- unarmed, in debt, terrified of spending more time in jail for child support payments he couldn't afford. Tamir Rice shot in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, unarmed and just 12 years old. Eric Garner, choked to death after being stopped for selling cigarettes on the streets of our city. And now Freddie Gray, his spine nearly severed while in police custody."

Baltimore continues to reel from the fallout of the April 12 death of Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after sustaining injuries while in police custody. Violence picked up this week after Gray's funeral on Monday, and the National Guard remains in the city.

Clinton laid out her vision for fundamentally reforming the criminal justice system, centering around an "end to the era of mass incarceration." Those changes include addressing probation and drug diversion programs, increasing support for mental health and drug treatment and pursuing alternative punishments for low-level offenders.

She also wants to see body cameras given to every police department to increase transparency and accountability in a way that benefits both officers and members of the public.

"We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance, and these recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again," said Clinton.

Watch the video above.

Wednesday's speech was Clinton's most significant comment on the situation in Baltimore thus far. During a fundraiser in New York City last week, she also said, "We have to restore order and security. But then we have to take a hard look as to what we need to do to reform our system.”

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