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If He Runs, Biden Better Be Ready to Explain His Role in Over Incarceration

If He Runs, Biden Better Be Ready to Explain His Role in Over Incarceration

As a Senator Joe Biden was an architect of the Clinton Crime bill (formally known as the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act).  The law would spike incarceration and become a primary reason for why the U.S. continues to lead the world in the rate of incarceration.  And there was a racial element as African Americans were incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.  Biden was no minor player in the effort to pass the largest crime bill in U.S. history through Congress.  

For those of you out there thinking that there was a good reason to pass the Clinton Crime Bill, for example: “…crime was out of control so we had to do something…,”  think again.  There were plenty of people who knew back in 1994 that the legislation would likely lead to a massive spike in incarceration because of the billions concentrated on hiring more cops and building more prisons.  Currently there are over 2 million people behind bars in the U.S. which includes 205,000 in federal prison.  Biden’s bill appropriated close to $10 billion in funding for prisons and put 100,000 new cops in the street. It also added 60 new death penalty offenses  to the criminal code and ended a law that permitted prison inmates to receive money for postsecondary education while in prison.  

The results were predictable: A historic spike in incarceration that would make the U.S. number one in the world in the rate of incarceration.  Only now are lawmakers getting around to making a move in another direction on the issue of crime and punishment in the U.S.  Many who backed the bill argue that the Clinton Crime bill worked and it lowered crime. That’s hard to prove.

RELATED: 20 Years Later, Parts Of Major Crime Bill Viewed As Terrible Mistake

Vice President Biden is starting to pop up at Black events. Two weeks ago, he attended a White House HBCU Conference, on September 19, the Vice President attended the prayer breakfast as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 45th Annual Legislative Conference.  But if he’s looking at getting into the race for the presidency he’d better get his talking points together on his role regarding incarceration and the change in thinking on crime policy.  

Biden has yet to deliver a full throated denunciation of what he was a part of in the early 1990s and what resulted.  Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was also a main part of seeing that the Clinton Crime Bill passed, has now admitted that it was bad policy and is working to roll back what was applied in the law by the bill.  

But for Biden and others, justifications about what they pushed into law, via the Clinton Crime Bill, is more difficult to justify. particularly as it related to low level drug offenders.