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What You Didn't Know About the 94' Crime Bill

One of the most controversial points of former Vice President Joe Biden’s career, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, known as the 94’ Crime Bill, is often used to scrutinize Biden’s decision making as a public servant.

Considered the largest crime bill in the history of the United States, the 94’ Crime Bill consisted of 356 pages that provided for $9.4 billion in funding for prisons and $6.1 billion in funding for prevention programs.

Though the bill was sponsored by U.S. Representative Jack Brooks of Texas, and Biden, a senator of Delaware at the time, drafted the Senate version that was eventually approved by President Bill Clinton.

Many critics say that the 94’ Crime Bill, and Biden by proximity, was responsible for a massive increase in incarceration rates which included increases in prison sentences, prison cells, and policies that caused damage to minority communities.

It also increased federal crimes subject to the death penalty and enabled juveniles to be tried as adults for violent and firearm-involved federal crimes.

However, in 2019, Biden defended his involvement with the 26-year-old bill, saying, “There’s another part of my long record that’s being grossly misrepresented: the 1994 crime bill.”

According to him, the bill had little impact on incarceration and points the blame at state legislatures for the increase in incarcerations.

He says that the bill was meant to “restored American cities” following a well-documented increase in crime and violence rates.

And believe it or not, the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus supported the legislation at the time. And nearly 40 African American religious leaders released a statement in support of the bill, while 10 African American mayors wrote to the chairman of the CBC, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, pledging their support for the bill.

Additional provisions called for a ban of semi-automatic firearms and assault weapons, created 60 new death penalty offenses under 41 federal capital statutes, eliminated higher education opportunities for inmates, allocated $1.6 billion to help prevent violence against women, and authorized the creation of “boot camps” for minors.

While between 1994 to 2017, crime rates decreased by 46 percent, crime analysts have found other policies that were directly responsible for the decreased rate and not the 94’ Crime Bill. They think that an increase in policies concerning community services is most likely the cause of the decrease.

Unfortunately, no matter what they may think, professionals have not had any luck pinpointing the reason for the improved crime rates. And despite the criticism, Biden stands by his decision to support the 94’ Crime Bill.


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