Bill Clinton on Crime

President of the U.S., 1993-2001; Former Democratic Governor (AR)


End over-imprisonment for non-serious crimes

We have a genuine chance at bipartisan cooperation [on] the over-imprisonment of people who did not commit serious crimes. The drop in violence & crime in America has been an extraordinary national achievement. But plainly, our nation has too many people in prison and for too long--we have overshot the mark. It has been two decades since there was sustained national attention to criminal justice. By 1994, violent crime had tripled in 30 years

But now it's time to take a clear-eyed look at what worked, what didn't, and what produced unintended, consequences. So many of these laws worked well, especially those that put more police on the streets. But too many laws were overly broad instead of appropriately tailored. A very small number of people commit a large percentage of serious crimes--and society gains when that relatively small group is behind bars. But some are in prison who shouldn't be, others are in for too long, and without a plan to reintegrate them into our communities.

Source: Brennan Center for Justice essays, p. v , Apr 28, 2015

Survived six assassination attempts in 1994, one by airplane

On Oct. 29, 1994, Francisco Martin Duran stood on Pennsylvania Av. and began firing at the White House with a semiautomatic rifle. As he paused to reload, a tourist tackled him. "I wish you had shot me," Duran said as the officers arrested him. He was convicted of attempting to assassinate the president and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay the government $3,200 to repair damage to the White House, including replacing pressroom windows riddled with bullets.

In Dec. 1994, four more such attacks--perhaps inspired by previous ones--occurred within a few days of one another. A previous incident in Sep. 1994, demonstrated the White House's vulnerability. That evening, after drinking and smoking crack cocaine, Frank Corder found the keys to a Cessna airplane. Corder stole the plane and flew to the White House. He then dove directly toward it at a steep angle. Corder's plane crashed onto the White House lawn just south of the Executive Mansion & skidded across the ground.

Source: In the President`s Secret Service, by Ron Kessler, p. 60-62 , Jun 29, 2009

Post-prison work training reduces recidivism

Alcoholics Anonymous, efforts to find jobs for former prison inmates, shelters that help families in distress--all are about new beginnings.

Historically, former prisoners have had a hard time starting again. They usually don't get much education or job training while incarcerated and even when they do, many employers are unwilling to hire them. Most don't have a home or stable family to take them in. Without a job, they are likely to commit other crimes. The Ready4Work program is trying to change that. Since 2003, the project has worked with religious and nongovernmental groups and local government in 17 cities to train newly released men and women, place them, and help them keep jobs. The results of their efforts have been impressive. Out of more than 4,800 returnees, only 1.9% of Ready4Work participants were incarcerated for a new offense within six months of their release, and only 5% were in jail within a year. In many states, the average recidivism rate in the first year is 20%.

Source: Giving, by Bill Clinton, p.101 , Sep 4, 2007

1980s:Sought pastoral counsel on capital punishment decision

In 1976, when Clinton ran for attorney general, he told conservative Southerners that he advocated capital punishment. When he became governor, in the early 1980s, the lives of certain incarcerated citizens once again lay directly in his hands, but whereas during his first time in office he did not have spiritual guidance, now he had a pastor who could sense that Clinton was troubled.

Clinton asked his Baptist minister, Dr. W. O. Vaught, if it was biblically permissible for him to execute a man, and Vaught told him that the death penalty was not prohibited in the original translation of the Ten Commandments. The final decision would be Clinton’s, noted Vaught, but he “must never worry about whether [the death penalty] is forbidden by the Bible, because it isn’t.”

Source: God and Hillary Clinton, by Paul Kengor, p. 67 , Jul 18, 2007

The Republicans are taking police off the streets

In this year’s budget, the White House this year wants to cut off all the federal funding for 88,000 uniformed police officers under the COPS program we’ve had for 10 years. Among those 88,000 police are more than 700 members of the New York Police Department who put their lives on the line on 9/11. With gang violence rising, and with all of us looking for terrorists in our midst & hoping they’re not too well armed or too dangerous, the president and the Congress are about to allow the 10-year-old ban on deadly assault weapons to lapse. Now, they believe it’s the right thing to do. But our policy was to put more police on the street and to take assault weapons off the street. And it gave you eight years of declining crime and eight years of declining violence. Their policy is the reverse. They’re taking police off the streets while they put assault weapons back on the street.
Source: Speech to the Democratic National Convention , Jul 29, 2004

Approved Arkansas execution of mentally retarded black man

Clinton understood the meaner calculations a Democrat would have to make f he wanted to be elected president. He would have to seem tougher on crime than Michael Dukakis had, especially on the squalid, and substantially irrelevant, issue of the death penalty (indeed, Clinton would approve the execution of a mentally retarded black man, Ricky Ray Rector, in the midst of the presidential campaign).
Source: The Natural, by Joe Klein, p. 37 , Feb 11, 2003

Pardoned half brother Roger; 1st family member ever pardoned

The standard procedure for granting a pardon includes a criminal background check conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Roger Clinton, however, was able to avoid that inconvenience. Roger was the first pardon ever by a president to a family member.
Source: The Final Days, by Barbara Olson, p.148-150 , Oct 25, 2001

Crime has dropped, but US is still not safe enough

Crime in America has dropped for the past seven years -- the longest decline on record, thanks to a national consensus we helped to forge on community police, sensible gun safety laws, and effective prevention. But nobody believes America is safe enough. So let’s set a higher goal: let’s make America the safest big country in the world.
Source: State of the Union Address , Jan 27, 2000

Expand the death penalty

Clinton saw Congress approve his Crime Bill of 1994. The bill's features included a death penalty expansion: The number of offenses punishable by the death penalty was expanded by nearly 60 additional categories of violent felons, including terrorists, drug kingpins, and murderers of federal law enforcement officers.
Source: State of the Union, by T. Blood & B. Henderson, p. 17-18 , Aug 1, 1996

More community police; more prison construction

Pres. Clinton's Crime Bill in 1994, considered by many to be the most comprehensive anticrime measure in US history, included:
Source: State of the Union, by T.Blood & B.Henderson, p. 17-18 , Aug 1, 1996

51-day Branch Davidian siege resulted in 76 deaths

In the countryside outside Waco, Texas, religious cult leader David Koresh proclaimed himself the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. A team of agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) attempted to serve search warrants on the Branch Davidian compound. The BATF agents were ambushed by heavy automatic gunfire. A siege ensued.

51 days later, on April 19, as much of the country watched on television, Koresh and most of his followers burned to death after FBI agents ordered Army tanks to punch holes in the walls so they could fire tear gas into the structure to end the standoff. Only 9 of the 85 people inside escaped the inferno; 19 children died. 17 victims died of gunshot wounds, some believed to be self-inflicted.

President Clinton immediately ordered the Treasury and Justice Departments to conduct their own investigations of the incident. Clearly, errors and miscalculations had been made by federal law enforcement.

Source: State of the Union, by T.Blood & B.Henderson, p. 36-37 , Aug 1, 1996

1994 crime bill funded basketball instead of real problem

Among the more futile of Washington's assaults on crime are the occasional gun control bill and Bill Clinton's unfulfilled promise to put "100,000 more officers" on our streets. The 1994 crime bill is another example of federal government overspending while refusing to tackle the real problem. This bill includes funding for basketball leagues & even issues federal requirements governing youth basketball participation. No wonder our citizens continue to feel unsafe. No wonder criminals scoff at the law
Source: Agenda For America, by Haley Barbour, p.120-121 , Apr 25, 1996

Three Strikes and You’re Out for violent criminals

Our 1994 Crime Bill and, more recently, our Anti-Terrorism Bill have matched good policing with tough punishment. We have pushed states to adopt the rule the government uses on federal prisoners, that requires them to serve 85% of their sentence without parole. For those who commit violent crimes repeatedly, we have made “three strikes and you’re out” the law of the land.
Source: Between Hope and History, by Bill Clinton, p. 80 , Jan 1, 1996

Death penalty for 60 violent crimes

We expanded the application of the death penalty for nearly sixty violent crimes, including murder of a federal law enforcement officer, and limited excessive death row appeals. And we have stiffened sentences for drug offenders and told those involved with drug activities in public housing projects they only get one strike. Public housing is a privilege; abuse it and you’re out.
Source: Between Hope and History, by Bill Clinton, p. 80 , Jan 1, 1996

More police, punishment, & prevention

The most fundamental responsibility of any government is to protect the safety of its citizens. All of the other things government does amount to very little if it fails in this task.

We will never eliminate the darkness that lurks in human nature; there will never be a time when there is no crime, no violence in America. My goal is to create an America where news of a serious crime [is a reason for] surprise and shock, not inevitable acceptance.

Source: Between Hope and History, by Bill Clinton, p. 75-81 , Jan 1, 1996

Sister Souljah accepting LA riots was racist

Clinton criticized the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition for providing a forum the night before for a black rap singer named Sister Souljah. Clinton quoted the rapper's remarks about the Los Angeles riots: "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?" Clinton said, "Her comments before and after Los Angeles were filled with a kind of hatred that you do not honor today and tonight." Jackson had just mentioned approvingly that she had been on the previous day's panel. As Jackson stared straight ahead, Clinton said, "If you took the words 'white' and 'black' and reversed them you might think David Duke was giving that speech."

Jackson was enraged, telling others he felt personally violated. Clinton became uneasy. He never liked to make an enemy, even though he wanted to signal his distance from Jackson.

Source: The Agenda, by Bob Woodward, p. 40-41 , Jun 6, 1994

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Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
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