AFRICANGLOBE – As Joe Biden continues to defend his 1994 Crime Bill, a video has resurfaced of Rep Bobby Rush calling it the worst thing to happen to the Black community in 50 years.
The 1994 Crime Bill, which was drafted by Biden, has been a shadow on his campaign since he announced he was running for president last month.
While former President Bill Clinton, who signed the bill into law when he was president, has walked back on his support in recent years, Biden has not wavered.
The 1994 Crime Bill is the largest of its kind in the history of the US.
It provided for 100,000 new police officers, as well as $9.7billion in funding for prisons and $6.1billion in funding for prevention programs.
The bill included the now infamous ‘three strikes‘ mandatory life sentence for repeat offenders and offered billions of dollars for new prisons to states if they increased their percentage of convicted violent offenders and increased the percentage of the sentence they actually served.
Within a decade, the US prison population skyrocketed from 1,179,200 people to 2,015,300 people.
‘I am ashamed of my vote,’ Rush said when he was asked about the bill during an MSNBC interview in 2016. ‘That was the worst vote, as I look back over the years, that I have taken since I’ve been in Congress.’
The Democratic congressman said the bill put ‘too much of a focus and resources’ on locking people up and ‘no resources on love and compassion’.
‘As a result we have devastated our communities, devastated our families, devastated our futures,’ he said.
‘Crack cocaine and the Crime Bill were the two worst catastrophes that the Black community has suffered through in the last 50 years. I absolutely apologize for voting for that bill. We have not accomplished anything other than further destruction of our communities.’
When Biden was told about Rush’s comments and asked if he was ashamed of the bill, he didn’t waver.
‘Not at all,’ he said ‘In fact, I drafted that bill.’
Biden fought hard for the bill in 1994, making it clear he believed it was integral to protecting American society from those who were ‘beyond the pale‘.
‘We have no choice but to take them out of society,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t matter whether or not they were deprived as a youth, it doesn’t matter whether or not they had no background that enabled them to become socialized into the
fabric of society. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re the victim of society.’
‘The end result is, they’re about to knock my mother in the head with a lead pipe, shoot my sister, beat up my wife, take on my sons. So I don’t want to ask what made them do this. They must be taken off the streets, that’s number one.’
And he remained passionate about the bill even as he was questioned on how it had impacted mass incarceration, particularly among minority communities, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Tuesday.
‘Folks, let’s get something straight, 92 out of every 100 prisoners [who] end up behind bars are in a state prison, not a federal prison,’ he replied.
‘This idea that the crime bill generated mass incarceration, it did not generate mass incarceration.’
But in 1995 Biden himself admitted that states could be mandated to keep prisoners in jail for longer.
‘We say we don’t want mandates to the states from the federal government, but the house crime bill now mandates for them to get money for prisons they have got to keep every prisoner in jail, like we do federally, 85 percent of the time for which they’re sentenced.’
‘Right now they’re only kept in jail in the states an average of 41 percent of the time. I like the idea of keeping them in jail longer. I’m the guy that wrote the bill requiring federal judges to keep people in jail 100 percent of the time for which they’re sentenced, and in notable exceptions only 85 percent, I’m all for tougher enforcement.’
Clinton also noted back in 2015 that the 1994 Crime Bill ultimately ‘set a trend’ for state law.
‘That was overdone. We were wrong about that. That percentage of it, we were wrong about,’ he said.
‘I signed a bill that made the problem worse, and I want to admit it.’
When Symone Sanders, a senior adviser on Biden’s campaign, was questioned about the state incentives last week, she called them an ‘overcorrection’.
‘I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Crime Bill was perfect,’ she said on CNN. ‘There were some really great preventative things it did, and then there was an overcorrection.’
‘I think many people will tell you across the country, Black folks included, that the reaction to what was happening in the early nineties was an overcorrection to a very real issue. But we are going to see some policy roll outs from our campaign very soon.’
By: Anneta Konstantinides
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