Clinton’s Criminal Justice Double Speak

- November 13, 2015

Clinton Said “I’m Not Sure I Agree” When Asked By Black Lives Matter Protesters If The Tough-On-Crime Policies Of The 1990s Didn’t Work Before Conceding That “A Lot Of What Was Tried” Failed. CLINTON: “Now, I’m not sure I agree with you. I’m not sure I disagree that any kind of government action often has consequences. And certainly, the War on Drugs, which was started back in the ‘80s, has had consequences. Increasing penalties for crime and ‘three strikes and you’re out,’ and all of those kinds of actions have consequences… Now, I do think that a lot of what was tried and how it was implemented has not produced the kinds of outcomes that any of us would want.” (Darren Sands, “#BlackLivesMatter Boston Releases First Videos Of Exchange With Clinton,” Buzzfeed, 8/18/15)

Before Officially Declaring Her Candidacy, Clinton Began To Try And Create Distance From Her Own Legacy Building The Current Criminal Justice System. “‘Each of us has to grapple with some hard truths about race and justice in America. Because despite all the progress we’ve made together, African-Americans, and most particularly, African-American men, are still more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charge with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms,’ she said.” (Alex Seitz-Wald, “Hillary Clinton Takes On ‘Hard Truths About Race And Justice,’” MSNBC, 12/4/14)

Not Only Did Her Husband Campaign On Being Tough On Crime, But Clinton Herself Actively Lobbied For Crime Laws That Saw A Massive Increase In The Number Of Prisoners

In 1994 Annual Women In Policing Event, Clinton Advocated For “More Prisons,” Three-Strikes Sentencing, And “More Police.” CLINTON: ““We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.” (Hillary Clinton, Remarks At The Annual Women In Policing, New York, NY, 8/10/94)

Clinton’s Husband Said He Wanted “To Be Tough On Crime” And Attacked President Bush For Being “Soft.”  “Mr. Clinton said the President was guilty of inaction on crime because he had said he would not sign handgun legislation unless it was part of a Republican-crafted legislative package, and he accused the President of talking tough on crime to divide America. ‘We cannot take our country back until we take our neighborhoods back,’ the Governor said as thousands of onlookers cheered. ‘Four years ago this crime issue was used to divide America. I want to use it to unite America. I want to be tough on crime and good for civil rights. You can't have civil justice without order and safety.’” (Gwen Ifill, “The Democrats; Clinton, In Houston Speech, Assails Bush On Crime Issue,” The New York Times, 7/24/92)

  • Under President Clinton, The Federal And State Prison Population Increased More Than Under Any Other President In History, More Than The Previous Two Presidents Combined. “The federal and state prison populations rose more under former President Bill Clinton than under any other president, according to a report from a criminal justice institute to be released today. In fact, the analysis of U.S. Justice Department statistics by the left-leaning Justice Policy Institute, a project of a San Francisco-based justice center, found that more federal inmates were added to prisons under Clinton than under presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan combined.” (Greg Krikorian, “Federal And State Prison Populations Soared Under Clinton, Report Finds,” Los Angeles Times, 2/19/01)

Clinton Was A Prominent Supporter Of Her Husband’s Omnibus Crime Bill, Calling It A “Well-Thought Out Crime Bill That Is Both Smart And Tough.” “As first lady, Clinton helped push the omnibus crime bill in public, calling it a "well-thought out crime bill that is both smart and tough" in a 1994 interview.” (Jeremy Diamond, “Bill Clinton Concedes Role In Mass Incarceration,” CNN, 5/7/15)

  • Now Her Husband Admits That His Signature Crime Deal Was A Mistake. “President Bill Clinton on Wednesday conceded that over-incarceration in the United States stems in part from policies passed under his administration. Clinton signed into law an omnibus crime bill in 1994 that 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. On Wednesday, Clinton acknowledged that policy's role in over-incarceration in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.” (Jeremy Diamond, “Bill Clinton Concedes Role In Mass Incarceration,” CNN, 5/7/15)

Recently Both Clinton And Her Husband Defended The Crime Bill, Saying It Has Helped The Black Community And Had Positive Aspects

President Clinton, Responding To Protestors Questioning His Support For The 1994 Crime Bill, Defended His Support And Argued That It Benefitted The Black Community. “Bill Clinton pushed back against the criticism by pivoting away from his typical stump speech and launching into a series of arguments about ways the crime bill did help the black community and times when Hillary Clinton worked on civil rights reform. ‘I talked to a bunch of African-American groups [in 1994], they think black lives matter. [The groups said] to take this bill because people are being shot in the street by gangs. We had 13-year-old kids planning their own funerals,’ Bill Clinton said at the Philadelphia rally.” (Ben Kamisar, “Bill Clinton Clashes With Protesters Over His Crime Bill,” The Hill, 4/7/16)

Clinton: “There Were So Many Positive Features Of The Bill.” CLINTON: “I think that's a very good point. I mean there were so many positive features to the crime bill, but, it did, I think, catalyze a kind of much more wrongly defined mentality about cracking down on crime, and people took it too far.”  (Hillary Clinton, Newsday Editorial Board Interview, 4/11/16)

The Clintons’ Defense Of The Legislation Questioned Whether They Truly Regretted Their Support For The Legislation

His Comments “Were Something Of A Change Of Position For Clinton, Who Earlier In This Cycle Appeared To Walk Back his Role In The Increased Incarceration.” “Those comments were something of a change of position for Clinton, who earlier in this cycle appeared to walk back his role in the increased incarceration that, as Clinton conceded on Thursday, President Obama was trying to undo. "I signed a bill that made the problem worse, and I want to admit it," he said at an NAACP gathering last July.” (Philip Bump, “Bill Clinton Gets Heated With Black Lives Matter Protesters Over His Crime Bill,” The Washington Post, 4/7/16)

Bill’s Comments “Make The Clinton’s Apologies Feel All The Weaker.” “But these apologies are widely seen as insufficient for many racial justice advocates and criminal justice reformers, who worry that the politically opportunistic Clintons would simply fall back on the same kind of rhetoric if crime were to rise once again in America. And with this view already out there, comments like Bill’s make the Clintons’ apologies feel all the weaker.” (German Lopez, “Bill Clinton Just Gave Criminal Justice Reformers Another Reason To Be Cautious Of Hillary,” Vox, 4/8/16)

“The Episode Launched A Thousand Reprises Of The Debate Over Whether The Clintons Were Truly Contrite About The Unintended Consequences Of The Crime Bill…” “The episode launched a thousand reprises of the debate over whether the Clintons were truly contrite about the unintended consequences of the crime bill, which some blame for codifying a culture of mass incarceration that has decimated African American families.” (Abby Phillip, “After Black Lives Matter Dust-Up, Bill And Hillary Clinton Shore Up Support With Black Voters,” The Washington Post, 4/10/16)

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