Point/Counter-Point: Hillary Clinton’s Criminal Justice Record

The Clintons Giving Speech

As the African-American voting bloc becomes the lynchpin of the Hillary Clinton campaign, debates have come up about the Clinton’s record on criminal justice issues. I smell a Point/Counter-Point brewin’!



The debate over the Clintons’ criminal justice record came to head with this video of a protester crashing a private fundraiser in Charleston, North Carolina a couple of weeks ago.




Yet this isn’t the only incident that has vocalized some skepticism over Clinton’s genuine concern over the African-American community and the criminal justice system. Some even point to Bernie Sanders doing better with black voters in the Midwest as a sign that younger generations of black voters look at the Clintons very differently.


Hold up, do you hear that?



It’s the Point/Counter-Point Alarm! Looks like it wants to talk about the Clintons’ record on social justice issues and debate over if the concern from the campaign is real or just a ploy to gin up votes!



Point: The Clintons Saying They Care about the African-American Community and Social Justice Reform Doesn’t Coincide with Their Past Dealings on the Issue!

Inside Jail


Back in 1994, The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act had been universally passed by Congress and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. Here’s video of Bill Clinton praising the 1994 “Crime Bill.”



It ended up being one of the largest (and more importantly one of the toughest) crime bills in history. Some of the negatives effects included prison overcrowding as well as the justice system to over-rely on plea bargains to deal with the increase in case load. Unfortunately this also led to minorities – specifically Latinos and African-Americans – being more likely to be incarcerated for minor drug offenses. It’s said that due to the “Crime Bill”, 1 in 3 black males will go to prison in their lifetime. The all happened under a Bill Clinton Presidency with First Lady Hillary Clinton lending her support to the passage of the bill. As this comment about disenfranchised being “super predators” from 1996 shows:



On top of that, ideas of social justice only came to the forefront after Bernie Sanders came into the scene! However where Sanders continually brings the topic of race and social justice back to Wall Street and a rigged economic structure, Clinton found an opening to hark directly about the disfranchisement of the African-American community, with no qualifiers. Her concern over social justice is just political opportunism and nothing more!



Counter-Point: The Clintons Have been Proponents of Social Justice Reforms from the Beginning, This is Not a New Thing!

Clintons 1992


The idea that Bill Clinton’s presidency – and in extension Hillary Clinton – isn’t for social justice reform because of the “Crime Bill” is not only ridiculous, but disingenuous to their legacy! Over the past few months there has been the narrative that has been pushed regarding the Clintons and social justice issues brought up by many opponents, specifically how the 1994 Crime Bill caused mass incarcerations of the African-American community.  While this argument sounds legitimate, in reality, it could be further from the truth!


Today many look at the Crime Bill as a significant factor that increased incarcerations in the 2000’s, when in reality, the 1994 Crime Bill specifically focused on the federal level. Yet the majority of those incarcerated by the US prison system today come from the state level. In fact, if you were to take out statistics dealing with the federal prison system, America would still have the highest incarceration rate in the world!


It’s an important distinction to make considering many of the criminal justice laws that the Clinton’s supported, like the 1994 Crime Bill, didn’t affect the mass incarceration rate as significantly as people think. Consider the federal prison system only houses about 13 percent of the overall prison population, connecting the 1994 Crime Bill to the increase in incarcerations would be connecting ice cream sales to drowning accidents near a pool during summertime, both relationships are spurious.


Mass Incarceration Rate


Yet all of this is beside the point, because hindsight is 20/20 in this case. At the time many were worrying about the rising crime rates around the US, which led to a push in stricter criminal justice laws. While it is true that the Clintons were supporters of many laws reforming the criminal justice system, that doesn’t necessarily mean they pushed for laws that incarcerated African-Americans at a higher rate! While there should be a push to end mass incarcerations in this country, blaming individuals like the Clintons – who actually created positive reforms for minorities while in the White House – is stalling the real change that is needed on the issue.



So what do you think? Let us know in the comments!



(Photo Credit: The Clinton Library, Prison Policy Initiative, Pixabay.com, Wikipedia)



Filed under Features, TPT Originals

5 Responses to Point/Counter-Point: Hillary Clinton’s Criminal Justice Record

  1. Anonymous

    Personally never bought that Hillary ever cared about social justice in the african american community. I think someone like Sanders in that case comes from a more honest place when he says he wants to end mass incarcerations in the US. But that’s just me.

  2. Sarah

    I don’t understand why it has to be one or the other. I honestly do think Hillary Clinton cares about social justice issues, but I also believe in the 90’s she supported tougher criminal justice laws. Frankly she had a change of heart. Can never understand why that’s such a wrong thing.

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