Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More People Imprisoned Under Clintons Than Under Reagan

Both 2008 Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband, Bill, claim to be against institutional racism. Yet during the Clintons’ first two terms in the White House, the number of African-Americans who were locked up in U.S. prisons increased dramatically. As Ralph Nader observed in a March 15, 2001 column, titled “The `Tough On Crime’ Party,” which was reprinted in Nader’s 2004 book, In Pursuit of Justice:

“…A report issued by the Justice Policy Institute finds it’s not the Republicans but the Democrats’ recently departed President Clinton who has title to what the Institute labels as the `most punitive platform on crime’ in the last two decades.

“Noting that President Clinton consistently supported increased penalties and additional prison construction, the report said that 225,000 more prison inmates were added during Clinton’s eight years than were added under President Reagan’s watch. And President Clinton also topped President George Bush [I]’s incarceration score, adding 34,000 more during his first term (1992-1996) than were added to the prison population in the four years of Bush [I]’s single term (1988-1992).

“…By the end of the Clinton administration, there were two million people in jails and prisons in the United States and 4.5 million others on probation and parole…

“African-Americans, in particular, have felt the effects of the `tough on crime’ politics of both major political parties. Between 1980 and 1999, the incarceration rate for African-Americans more than tripled from 1,156 per 100,000 to 3,620 per 100,000.”

Nader also noted that Hillary’s husband signed a law in 1994, for instance, which rejected a U.S. Sentencing Commission recommendation that African-Americans who distribute 5 grams of crack cocaine not be sentenced to longer prison sentences than white people who distribute 450 grams of powdered cocaine:

“Some of the growing prison population of African-Americans is the result of tougher sentencing laws enacted in 1986 and 1988, which made the punishment for distributing crack cocaine one hundred times greater than the punishment for powdered cocaine…A person convicted in federal court for distributing 5 grams of crack cocaine receives a mandatory 5-year minimum sentence while it takes 500 grams of powdered cocaine to trigger a 5-year mandatory sentence.

“In 1994, the U.S. Sentencing Commission…recommended that the sentencing be equalized so that the mandatory sentence would be triggered by the same amount of cocaine…in powdered…form. But Congress voted to reject the commission’s recommendation and President Clinton signed the rejection into law…”

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