Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

In one of two campaign stops on Wednesday, Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at the El Pollo Feliz restaurant in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

Sanders Blasts US Mass Incarceration as 'International Embarrassment'

In Chicago appearances, Sanders also distances himself from embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Deirdre Fulton

In a speech that included an overt jab at embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders decried the U.S. incarceration rate as an "international embarrassment" and said he considers "reforming our broken criminal justice system one of the most important things that a president of the United States can do."

During his quick stop on Chicago's west side, Sanders outlined his plan for criminal justice reform, a platform that includes ending for-profit prisons, removing marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, eliminating the death penalty, and ending mandatory minimum sentencing.

He described the disproportionately high rate of incarceration for black males and the criminalization of school-aged black Americans a "tragedy."

"What a destruction of an entire generation," Sanders said to a room of supporters at the Village Leadership Academy. He was joined on stage by high-profile progressive activists Cornel West, Jim Hightower, Mike Render (aka Killer Mike), and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

He also called for "police departments to look like their community, not like occupying forces." Police accountability is a hot-button issue across the country and perhaps especially in Chicago right now, where Emanuel and other top city officials have been under fire for their mishandling of the police-shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald along with broader systemic racial and socioeconomic issues.

When asked about Emanuel by a reporter at the event, Sanders responded: "If the question is do I want or need Rahm Emanuel’s support for president, with all due respect for the mayor, no I don't."

Emanuel is a former senior adviser to Sanders' rival Hillary Clinton and was White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. A march and rally calling for his resignation, along with that of Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez, is planned for Christmas Eve.

According to CBS Chicago, Sanders met earlier in the day with leaders in the local Black and Latino communities, including Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners who lost to Emanuel in a runoff for Chicago mayor in April, at a private invite only event.

Watch below:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

First Stop for Cuellar After FBI Raid? An Anti-Choice Event

"Despite being under an FBI investigation," said progressive primary challenger Jessica Cisneros, the congressman from Texas "has once again proven that nothing can stop him from opposing our reproductive rights and freedoms."

Brett Wilkins ·


House Calls Big Oil Board Members to Testify on 'Phony' Net-Zero Pledges

"It's critical that Congress holds these companies accountable and exposes the industry's fake climate pledges for the fraud that they are," said one supporter of Democrats' probe.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Time for Citizens United to Go': US Oligarchs Poured $1.2 Billion Into 2020 Elections

The figure represents a 39-fold increase compared to spending in 2010, the first election held after the widely decried ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Praised for $15 Minimum Wage Hike for All Federal Workers

"Setting a new $15 per hour wage floor for federal government work will encourage employers across the country who are currently paying poverty wages to compete for labor and start paying fairer rates."

Brett Wilkins ·


Sotomayor Excoriates Majority for 'Egregious' Attack on Texas Women

"This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies," said the justice. "I will not stand by silently as a state continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo