Despite the union ignoring similar calls from Republicans, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised President Barack Obama Thursday for taking a stance on criminal justice reform.
“President Obama took a powerful step towards reforming our criminal justice system,” Trumka said in a statement. “It is past time for a complete overhaul of this country’s criminal justice system.”
High incarceration rates, especially for nonviolent crimes, have sparked a bipartisan movement to change the criminal justice system. Some advocates argue the system especially hurts minority communities. Obama echoed the voices of many Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians in a speech pushing for criminal justice reform.
“There are people who need to be in prison, and I don’t have tolerance for violent criminals,” the president said after visiting a federal prison in Oklahoma. “We have to reconsider whether 20-year, 30-year, life sentences for nonviolent crimes is the best way for us to solve these problems.”
Sentencing nonviolent criminals costs taxpayers millions of dollars and has been called immoral. Business giants like the Koch Brothers and Republican lawmakers like Rand Paul have been at the forefront, alongside many Democrats, in pushing for reforms. Despite this, the AFL-CIO has been silent when the advocacy comes from the right. Its an issue the union has long advocates for and has praise those like Attorney General Eric Holder or others on the left when they are the ones fighting for it.
When asked about the selective praise Amaya Smith, national media director for the union, said it supports all who want to play a role in the reforms
“The fact that people from both sides of the aisle agree on the need for criminal justice reform proves that this is an issue worth tackling,” Smith told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We welcome anyone who wants to play a constructive role in that reform.”
The AFL-CIO did, however, dismiss the Koch Brothers. The union pointed to a report from American Bridge which details how their involvement is disingenuous. The group notes its mission is to oppose the conservative movement’s extreme ideology and to expose its dishonest tactics.
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