Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Clinton Finds Religion (too late) on Mass Incarceration

White House file photo - public domain
Admitting that policies he championed while in the White House led to unconscionable mass incarceration in the United States, former President Bill Clinton expressed regret recently that he signed specific legislation during his Presidency.  Most onerous as identified by Clinton were the "three strikes" laws and life sentence mandates for certain crimes that were passed under his signature.  Clinton states in retrospect that "The problem is the way [the legislation] was written and implemented [a]s we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison. . . .  And we wound up . . . putting so many people in prison that there wasn't enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives."

Hillary Clinton, also finding enlightenment on the subject (as she supported three strikes policies as First Lady), has begun campaigning for President on the promise that mass incarceration needs to end and saner prison policies must be adopted across the country.  She states:  "Keeping them behind bars does little to reduce crime, but it does a lot to tear apart families . . . . Our prisons and our jails are now our mental health institutions."  Clinton continues"I saw how families could be and were torn apart by excessive incarceration. I saw the toll on children growing up in homes shattered by poverty and prison."

Now that the Clinton's have found religion on prison policy and mass incarceration, can we expect national and state leaders to continue to legislate from a "reducing prison populations" perspective rather than the sophomoric "tough on crime" stance that led to so many wrong-headed laws and policies in the past?  This blog has long maintained that mass incarceration must be dealt with forthrightly and that carceral policy must be reformed if we are to reach our economic potential as a nation.

Hat tip to Kyle Noone, 2L, Indiana Tech Law School


  1. Unfortunately, Mr. Clinton should have considered all of the ramifications of mass incarceration before signing 3 strikes into law. Something such as this has been a direct contributor to the reasoning for corporate prison systems. States are attempting to minimize the costs associated with the number of incarcerations which allows a state to relinquish control and the subsequent costs of maintaining prisons.

  2. Mass incarceration has been a problem in this country for a long time. In the early 70s, the incarceration rate in the U.S. was around 95 per 100,000. That number is now around 500 per 100,000. New technology has made it much easier to catch criminals using camera footage and DNA tests. It's good that we have an easier time catching rapists and murderers, but these types of crimes are not the ones that are over-crowding our prisons. If I were to take a guess, I'd say that most of the offenders in the prison where I worked were convicted of drug crimes or crimes related to drugs, such as burglary. To add insult to injury by instituting a "3 strikes & you're out rule" only makes the overcrowding in prisons worse. It was rare for me to have even one empty bed in a housing unit with 204 beds in it. At the time I graduated college, the latest research showed that community corrections was the best way to help offenders rehabilitate. That's a very unpopular notion with the public, but the research shows what it shows. If it were up to me, I'd legalize drugs also, but we have our hands full convincing the public to do more community corrections with non-violent felons. We'd probably do best to start there.

  3. Most executives who practice conscious capitalism confront the tension between those measuring in months and those measuring in years.