Twenty years ago this week, in 1994, former President Bill Clinton signed the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act – the Act paid to put more cops on the beat, trained police and lawyers to investigate domestic violence, imposed tougher prison sentences, and provided money for extra prisons.
Clinton described his motivation to pass the Bill:
Gangs and drugs have taken over our streets and undermined our schools….Every day we read about somebody else who has literally gotten away with murder.
Reflecting upon the tough-on-crime rhetoric of the 1990s, Nicholas Turner, President of the Vera Institute of Justice, says “Criminal justice policy was very much driven by public sentiment and a political instinct to appeal to the more negative punitive elements of public sentiment rather than to be driven by the facts.”
And various research including a National Academy of Sciences has found only a modest relationship between incarceration and lower crime rates.
Jeremy Travis, President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who joined the Clinton Justice Department back then says, “We now know with the fullness of time that we made some terrible mistakes…And those mistakes were to ramp up the use of prison. And that big mistake is the one that we now, 20 years later, come to grips with. We have to look in the mirror and say, ‘look what we have done.'”
Today “Right on Crime” approach, taking money away from prisons and investing into social programs, wins support from Republican governors.