President Obama on Saturday touted his push to make the criminal justice system “smarter, fairer, and more effective.”
 
“I believe we can disrupt the pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails,” he said in his weekly address.
 
“I believe we can address the disparities in the application of criminal justice, from arrest rates to sentencing to incarceration. And I believe we can help those who have served their time and earned a second chance get the support they need to become productive members of society.”
 
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His call comes after he addressed a group of police chiefs at a conference in Chicago this week and struck a supportive tone, saying police officers had been been “scapegoated for the broader failures of our society and criminal justice system” too frequently.
 
In the address, Obama highlighted his meetings with law enforcement officials as well as inmates and others caught up in a criminal justice system.
 
This year has brought bipartisan support in Congress for reforms. Lawmakers including Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) rolled out a reform package this month that lowers the mandatory sentences for some crimes. 
 
Activists point to mandatory minimums for certain drug crimes as one cause of the disproportionate jailing of black Americans.
 
Obama said he would “keep working with people in both parties to get criminal justice reform bills to my desk, including a bipartisan bill that would reduce mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders and reward prisoners with shorter sentences if they complete programs that make them less likely to commit a repeat offense.”
 
Criminal justice reform is also an issue in the ongoing 2016 presidential race. On Friday, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton called for sentencing reforms and an end to racial profiling. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also made reform a key part of his White House campaign.
 
There have also been calls for reforms to policing policies around the country, particularly in minority communities, in large part because of the Black Lives Matter movement’s response to the killing of several unarmed black men and women by police officers.
 
Obama said in his address that "we know that having millions of people in the criminal justice system, without any ability to find a job after release, is unsustainable."
 
"It’s bad for communities and it’s bad for our economy.”