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July 14, 2015

What's expected from Obama at NAACP convention

Will call for criminal justice reforms

President Barack Obama is expected to push for criminal justice reform when he addresses thousands of delegates at the NAACP national convention around 4 p.m.

"While there, the President will outline the unfairness in much of our criminal justice system, highlight bipartisan ideas for reform, and lay out his own ideas to make our justice system fairer, smarter, and more cost-effective while keeping the American people safe and secure," according to a White House press memo.

The President, whose remarks were pushed back one hour following the announcement of a nuclear deal with Iran, later will participate in a Democratic National Convention roundtable at The Rittenhouse Hotel before departing Philadelphia International Airport at 6:50 p.m.

Obama has shown a greater willingness to address issues of race as his presidency draws to a close. He will become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison when he tours Oklahoma’s El Reno Correctional Institution on Thursday.

His remarks at the NAACP convention on race relations could prove poignant.

"I think for the president, he's looking long-term at his legacy," NAACP board Vice Chairman Leon Russell said last week. "He has to be provocative in that area. He has to say something special in that area."

Obama last addressed the NAACP in 2009, celebrating the civil rights organization's centennial anniversary. He called for the same commitment that tore down previous racial barriers to be used to break apart the "structural inequalities that our nation's legacy of discrimination has left behind."

The United States houses 25 percent of the world's criminals despite comprising just 5 percent of the world's population, according to the NAACP. African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rates of whites.

The NAACP has called for comprehensive criminal justice reforms throughout the convention, including passing a resolution Monday morning demanding the reduction of racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system.

The resolution was among 38 adopted by the NAACP's delegates, who covered a wide range of issues in developing their advocacy agenda.

The delegates also ended the NAACP's boycott of South Carolina following the removal of the Confederate Flag from the state capitol building, a resolution that drew a standing ovation. 

They then passed a resolution calling for Mississippi to redesign its state flag, which includes a Confederate symbol. Another resolution, calling for the removal of Confederate symbols and battle flags in any state, is expected to be passed Wednesday morning.

The delegates also adopted resolutions urging law enforcement agencies to make body cameras and weapon cameras universal law enforcement equipment. Another demanded the end of youth incarceration by closing youth prisons and investing resources in community-based alternatives.

The NAACP  adopted a resolution opposing the use of any weapon or spray device equipped to any drones operated by the government or law enforcement agencies. The resolution also called for surveillance oversight to avoid intrusion on civil rights.

A listing of the resolutions adopted by the delegates can be found here.