I have been at the forefront of many of the most important judiciary issues facing our country and have fought diligently against efforts to erode our citizens' civil liberties. I support effective crime prevention measures that will keep our families and communities safe. Those accused of crimes must be treated fairly, and those who are guilty must be punished appropriately and justly. As an advocate for equality under the law and fair administration of justice, I work with other Members of Congress to develop responses to the challenges we face in the criminal justice system.
Mandatory minimum prison sentences interfere with judicial authority and impose “one size fits all” penalties without considering specific circumstances. In addition, mandatory minimum sentences – especially those related to drug possession – and laws that impose more severe penalties for crack cocaine than powder cocaine have resulted in the incarceration of a disproportionate number of African Americans. While serving in Congress, I have supported various measures to address problems related to mandatory minimum sentencing, and continue to advocate for reforming this misguided policy.
I am also concerned about abusive and unconstitutional practices and racial profiling conducted by some law enforcement officers. The men and women who police our streets and protect our neighborhoods have important responsibilities and face real dangers. However, they must be held to high standards of professionalism based on codified criminal procedures and policing practices. They should not be given sweeping power to momentarily strip individuals of their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights – the amendments that govern criminal procedure, restricting and limiting certain government actions.