Newark Mayor Wants More Treatment and Jobs Programs

JERSEY CITY (CBSNewYork/AP) — Saying it’s obvious the war on drugs has not worked, Newark Mayor Cory Booker called Wednesday for an end to minimum prison sentences for low-level drug offenders.

Appearing in Jersey City at a church where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke weeks before he was assassinated, Booker said blacks in the U.S. are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than whites and that pot arrests now make up almost half of all drug arrests. The U.S. Senate candidate said the answer to cut down on repeat offenders is to launch more programs that focus on drug treatment and job training and placement, WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported.

Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Booker said he sometimes rides along with police officers and that they “know that this is a ridiculous game that they’re involved in. They’re trapped. They’re stuck on this treadmill.”

The mayor’s wish list for reforming the criminal justice system also includes ending prison privatization and beginning a “national conversation” on legalizing marijuana. He said he believes such moves, along with ending minimum sentences, would “make our community safer, to reduce not only crime, but taxpayer expenditures.”

Booker and other mayors met with President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder at the White House on Tuesday to discuss reducing youth violence.

Earlier this month, Holder announced that the Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders.

Booker’s Republican opponent, Steve Lonegan, has criticized Booker’s record of controlling crime while mayor of New Jersey’s largest city.

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