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"No Quick Fix" for Criminal Justice System

CEDAR FALLS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - "I think most importantly, it's to educate the American people and there's no better place to do it than Iowa, where all the Presidential candidates are going to come."

Along with Bernie Kerik's extensive knowledge and life experience on the topic of criminal justice, the former New York City Police Commissioner has a unique perspective of the prison system.

"I ran the NYPD at 55,000 strong, I got the city through 9/11, I ran Rikers Island for 6 years, and had enormous success," Kerik says.

But he also has another view - an inside one.

In 2010, he plead guilty to tax fraud charges and was sentenced to four years in prison.

"And the findings, what I saw when I was there, was absolutely outrageous, and that's what has basically put me here today," he says.

Here, at UNI, where this first Iowa Criminal Justice Summit dealt with everything from the sheer number of crimes, to overpopulated prisons, to minority disparities to the incredible difficulties facing people who try to go back into society after their time behind bars.

"You can be convicted of a felony and be sentenced to probation. The collateral punishment of that is going to be with you until they put you in the ground," says Kerik, adding, "It's not fair."

One woman in the crowd agreed. She told her story of being convicted and serving time ten years ago - but just last week, was turned down for new housing, because of her record.

"It still makes me madder than hell, when I try after 10 years to find a new place to live, and I can't," she says.

"There is no short answer, this isit has to be a bi-partisan issue....it's an issue that has an impact on every American, because at the end of the day, I think what a lot of people don't realize, it could be you," Kerik explains.

Kerik says Iowa has a unique position.

"This president has said that we'd better do something about it. I'm convinced that the next president, better say the same thing, because if you don't fix it, it's only going to get worse."

And he says our position with the caucuses, puts this Midwest state, front-and-center to press it.

"The American people have to ask the presidential candidates one very important question, and that is, 'If we are 5% of the world's total population, how is it physically possible, that we hold 25% of the world's prisoners in this country?'"

Along with being a Former Police Commissioner, Kerik is also the Chairman of the American Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform, which is a non-profit, working to transform what they say is an outdated criminal justice system.

You can learn much more about it, by visiting their website accjr.org.

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