From an editorial published Thursday on Bloomberg View:
Bill Clinton got an earful last week from Black Lives Matter protesters in Philadelphia, and the former president responded in kind – and at length.
The dispute was over the 1994 crime bill, the most comprehensive criminal justice legislation in U.S. history. “Clinton crime bill destroyed our communities,” a protester’s sign read. Clinton argued that the bill had saved black communities, and black lives. He later expressed regret for his outburst. He shouldn’t have.
The legislation paid for close to 100,000 additional community police officers, built new prisons, encouraged harsher sentences for crimes, and specifically toughened penalties for rape and domestic violence. Crime came down. Lives were saved.
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The alternate history, the one without the bill, would likely be filled with the stories of victims, many of them black.
The bill came with its human cost. The trend toward more and longer sentences – an ongoing increase that was actually greater before the bill passed – surely harmed some lives that otherwise could have been redeemed.
This cannot be discounted. And yet to focus on this observation at the exclusion of all else would be a serious mistake.