The Mass Incarceration Bill That Could Break Biden 2016
Twenty-one years after helping to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act as a Delaware senator, Joe Biden is still touting it.
“It put another 100,000 cops on the street, and it cost $1 billion,” he wrote in April, in a release through NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice. “But because crime was rampant, everybody signed on. And it worked.”
The landmark legislation, now known as the 1994 Biden Crime Bill, was expansive and wide-reaching, and it outlaws civilian ownership of assault rifles, possibly the most substantial gun ban in recent American history.
But advocates for prison reform, one of the key issues in the upcoming 2016 presidential race, say one part of the bill is indefensible and contributed to the mass incarceration problem that has made America the most imprisoned citizenry in the Western world.
“It’s a big bill, but it’s a pretty bad bill,” said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project. “There’s no question it was designed to be a tough on crime bill. That’s how President Clinton talked about it at his State of the Union address. The only reason there’s some half-decent stuff in there is because the Congressional Black Caucus was very adamant about the direction of the bill.”
If Biden decides to run in 2016, he could face questions about the so-called 1994 Biden Crime Bill, which created financial incentives for states to jail more people and keep them in prison for considerably longer sentences.