Presidential candidate Rand Paul is determined to make criminal justice reform a key issue in the 2016 campaign, and in his most recent move, Paul slammed Hillary Clinton for the laws her husband enacted while in office that ‘put a generation of Black men in prison.’ In recent weeks, Paul has called out Hillary for running away from the “harm” caused by Clinton’s time in office. Clinton recently admitted that his policies led to too many Americans becoming incarcerated and even issued an apology.
Many Black people have viewed Bill Clinton as an almost Messiah like Democratic President, with some even going as far as referring to him as the first Black president because of his groomed image as a politician who supported Black interests and liberal and progressive causes. By focusing on that groomed image, people have overlooked the fact that Clinton’s implementation of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act led to an explosion in the United States’ prison population as well as the largest expansion of the death penalty in history.
The bill gave states fiscal incentives to pass and implement tougher sentencing laws, which led to an increase in what is known as mandatory minimum sentencing. The incarceration of Black men is so extreme that towns such as Ferguson, Missouri experience gender imbalance with substantially fewer Black men than women because so many Black men are incarcerated.
In calling Hillary out, Paul stated that he would, “…ask Hillary Clinton, what have you done for criminal justice? Your husband passed the laws that put a generation of Black men in prison. Her husband was responsible for that.” Paul pointed out that he has introduced laws, with the backing of Democratic lawmakers, that would allow judges to have more discretion in how people are sentenced as well as legislation that would reduce penalties for non-violent drug offenses. By making criminal justice reform a central component of his platform, Paul is hoping to make a case for him being a stronger general election nominee against Clinton than his GOP rivals.
Both Hillary and Bill Clinton wrote op-eds last month regarding the tough-on-crime laws implanted during the Clinton administration. Bill Clinton described the laws as “an honest reaction to a very real and violent threat,” but he also acknowledged that some of the policies may have been too drastic and placed too much emphasis on incarceration.
Hillary Clinton gave a speech last month on criminal justice reform in which she stated, “There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts. There is something wrong when a third of all Black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes. We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance and these recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again.”