Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley on Friday released a sweeping plan to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, a move that could set the bar for candidates from both parties as they seek to stake a claim on the issue.
In a nine-page document, the former Maryland governor outlined a set of progressive policies designed to address issues like reform of police, prisons and sentencing; restoring felon voting rights; declassifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug; and overhauling the nation's approach to addiction and mental health.
"America’s criminal justice system is badly in need of reform," reads an introduction to O'Malley's plan. "For too long our justice system has reinforced our country’s cruel history of racism and economic inequality -- remaining disconnected from our founding ideals of life, liberty, and equal treatment under the law."
(Read the entire plan below.)
The proposals come amid a growing nationwide debate on criminal justice reform, which has forced both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to take notice. In recent months, the discussion has centered heavily on issues of race and policing amid a string of high-profile police killings of unarmed black men. O'Malley's plan specifically calls for ensuring transparency and accountability in law enforcement by mandating and expanding data reporting on police-involved shootings and deaths, establishing national guidelines on the use of force, enacting racial bias training and crisis de-escalation training, and continuing to develop programs for police body cameras and other recording devices.
Speaking Friday alongside presidential candidates from both parties at the National Urban League Conference in Fort Lauderdale, O'Malley again dove into a discussion on criminal justice reform. He brought up his record as governor and mayor of Baltimore before that -- a legacy that attracted scrutiny amid unrest in Baltimore earlier this year -- and spoke of his work to rectify racial disparities in prison populations and sentencing. He also admitted there is still plenty of work left to do.
“We are not there yet. Every headline or video of official abuse, injustice, indifference, killing or murder reminds us of how far we still have to go,” said O’Malley.
Critics tore into O'Malley earlier this month when a group of black activists interrupted an appearance at the progressive Netroots Nation conference, and he responded by saying "all lives matter." The phrase has frequently been used by detractors of the Black Lives Matter movement -- and also led to criticism of Hillary Clinton when she said it in June. O'Malley later apologized for his choice of words, saying that he meant no disrespect.
On Friday, O'Malley didn't repeat the mistake.
"Every year we buried 300 young black men who died violent deaths on our streets," he said of the murder rate during the beginning of his tenure as mayor of Baltimore. "And black lives matter."
Democratic frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have also become increasingly outspoken about criminal justice reform and its racial implications, as they seek a balance that will allow them to champion racial equality while not risking the support of working-class white voters.
O’Malley has yet to make a surge in the Democratic primary following the announcement of his candidacy earlier this summer. According to HuffPost Pollster, which aggregates publicly available polling data, he has the support of 0.5 percent of likely Democratic voters, trailing all other candidates except for former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Clinton leads the pack with 56.9 percent, with Sanders a distant second at 18.5 percent.
Read O'Malley's entire plan below:
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