Former vice president and 2020 presidential contender Joe Biden on Wednesday defended his support for the 1994 crime bill, which imposed mandatory minimum sentences on nonviolent offenders, directed billions of dollars toward prison construction and led the United States to become the world’s largest mass incarcerator. Biden’s defense of the law, which he co-authored while serving as a senator from Delaware, came as the annual convention of the NAACP wrapped up in Detroit.
Joe Biden: “1994 crime bill, we had a gigantic epidemic in America of violence, particularly in African-American communities. Now, Jesse [Jackson] and I disagreed a little bit in this, but in my community, the notion was, it was overwhelmingly supported.”
Biden was referring to comments by the civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said Wednesday Biden had “some obligation” to address the 1994 crime bill. On Tuesday, Biden rolled out his criminal justice reform proposal, which would reverse many of the provisions of the law he helped author. Another presidential candidate appearing at the NAACP’s convention, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, took aim at Biden’s proposal.
Sen. Cory Booker: “For a guy who helped to be an architect of mass incarceration, this is an inadequate solution to what is a raging crisis in our country.”