Former Top Cop Kerik Launches Fight for Prison Reform

Image: Former Top Cop Kerik Launches Fight for Prison Reform

Thursday, 30 Jan 2014 12:42 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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Bernard Kerik, who led New York City’s police department through the 9/11terror attacks but later went to prison for tax evasion, is launching a new career as an advocate for criminal justice reform.

He's one of the only people, he says, that can bring systemic change to a structure that incarcerates more than two million Americans every year but is "in dire need of repair."

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Kerik, a former beat cop, was appointed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in August, 2000 to run the nation’s biggest police force after a successful stint bringing order to the city’s overcrowded and violent jail system.

But Kerik found himself on the wrong side of prison bars in 2009 when a Federal judge sentenced him to four years on the tax charges and for making false statements to authorities. He was released in October.

"No one with my experience and background has ever been inside the system, so it’s given me a real, one-of-a-kind, very unique experience," Kerik told Politico Wednesday before giving his first speech as a free man at a center in Arlington, Va that provides services to former inmates.

Kerik is arguing for alternative punishments for nonviolent and first-time offenders, as well as the elimination of the country's mandatory minimum sentencing laws, under which murderers sometimes serve less time than those convicted of drug crimes, telling Newsmax: “This is not about me. I’ve done my time.”

Without major reform, the entire justice system could implode, Kerik said, according to the Huffington Post.

"[Felons] forced to return to crime," he said. "They need to take care of their children and they need to take care of their family and they need to live."

During an earlier interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s The Today Show, Kerik produced a nickel to demonstrate the amount of cocaine that sends an offender to prison.

“I was with men sentenced to ten years in prison for five grams of cocaine. That's insane. That's insane,” he told Lauer.

“Anybody that thinks that you can take these young black men out of Baltimore and D.C., give them a ten-year sentence for five grams of cocaine, and then believe that they're going to return to society a better person ten years from now, when you give them no life improvement skills, when you give them no real rehabilitation?” he said. “That is not benefiting society.”

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