Prison 'just one tool' in crime fight: Obama

2015-10-23 16:56


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Washington - President Barack Obama has called for alternatives to incarceration for minor crimes, as he met top police officials who are calling for reforms to address chronic prison overpopulation.

"Incarceration is just one tool" in the fight against crime, Obama said at a White House meeting, measuring his words carefully to not appear soft on crime.

The president is in a push to end what he calls "unnecessary incarceration" in a country where overpopulated prisons house 2.2 million people.

"If that's the only tool, if we think we only have a hammer, then everything becomes a nail, then we are missing opportunities for us to create safer communities through drug diversion and treatments, for example, or through more effective re-entry programs," he said.

Obama met legal experts and members of a new group that includes 130 top police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and attorneys general from across the country.

The group, which calls itself "Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration," includes the chiefs of the Los Angeles, New York City and Washington police departments.

For years, US politicians believed that the longer the prison term, the less crime there would be. This led to the adoption in the 1980s and 1990s of tough mandatory minimum sentences that are now widely criticised.

Obama has blamed both Democrats and Republicans for the problem, saying that politicians wanted to look tough on crime, especially on drug use, while ignoring alternatives.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us

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