Prison reform and mass incarceration in America has been a major topic lately, especially with President Obama‘s impending visit to federal prisons. Speaking of presidents, former president Bill Clinton did something rare for a politician. He admitted that he made the mass incarceration problem worse during his presidency.
He stated on Wednesday, that a crime bill he signed into law back in 1994 made the nation’s criminal justice system worse by increasing prison sentences.
“I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” Clinton told an audience at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. “And I want to admit it.”
The omnibus crime bill that Clinton signed included the federal “three strikes” provision, mandating life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes.
Clinton said Wednesday that he signed the law because “we had had a roaring decade of rising crime” when he entered the White House.
“We had gang warfare on the streets. We had little children being shot dead on the streets who were just innocent bystanders standing in the wrong place,” he said.
In response, Clinton said, the bill increased the number of police on the streets and enacted gun control legislation. But decades later, Clinton believes the results of the law were mixed, at best.
“In that bill, there were longer sentences. And most of these people are in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend,” Clinton said. “And that was overdone. We were wrong about that. That percentage of it, we were wrong about. “
Clinton added that the country experienced its biggest drop in crime in history, but one of the major drawbacks was that a lot of people, who were minor offenders, were locked up too long.
Clinton’s comments followed Obama’s address at the NAACP’s convention on Tuesday, where he discussed the problem with mass incarceration and outlined a plan for reformd.
“Mass incarceration makes our country worse off and we need to do something about it,” Obama said.
Hillary Clinton has made criminal justice reform a major part of her campaign. We’ll see how this unfolds, because you know not everyone is down with prison reform.