They always say better late than never.
But in the case of Bill Clinton’s apology for the war on drugs and mass incarceration, is it too much, too late?
President Bill Clinton admitted what few politicians ever do. He said he was wrong. He conceded that the policies of his administration played a role in today’s mass incarceration of America.
As CNN reported, the former president admitted that he and his administration touted the “three strikes” provision of his 1994 omnibus crime bill, while also pointing the finger at Republicans. The legislation provided for mandatory life sentences for people convicted of a violent felony after at least two prior convictions, including drug-related offenses.
“The problem is the way it was written and implemented is we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison,” Clinton said Wednesday. “And we wound up…putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives.”
Clinton claimed he accepted some the harshest measures in the bill because he wanted it passed. In a speech in September, 1994, then-President Clinton promised to “break the gangs, ban those cop-killer bullets, [impose] drug testing from parolees, improve the opportunities for community-based strategies to lower crime, and give our children something to say ‘yes’ to.” And that crime bill helped the nation’s “first black president” win reelection in 1996, twelve years before the real first black president, of course.
Meanwhile, this comes at a time when Hillary Clinton, Bill’s wife and a candidate for president, is on point and on her game when it comes to talking about reducing the prison population. In late April, she called for radical changes to the criminal justice system, a demilitarization of police forces and an end to “weapons of war on our streets.”
“We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance and these recent tragedies should galvanize us as a nation to find our balance again,” she said at a forum in New York.
“We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America,” she added. “From Ferguson to Staten Island to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable,” Clinton added. “Walter Scott shot in the back in Charleston, South Carolina … Tamir Rice, shot in a park in Cleveland, Ohio … Eric Garner, choked to death after being stopped for selling cigarettes.”
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