2/23/01

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A report released this week by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice's Justice Policy Institute scores former President Bill Clinton for a "prison legacy... more punitive than those of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush combined," and provides the numbers to back it up.

The report, entitled "Too Little, Too Late: President Clinton's Prison Legacy," (http://www.cjcj.org/clinton/) finds that during former President Clinton's first-term (1992-1996), 148,000 more state and federal prisoners were added than during President Reagan's first term (1980-1984), and 34,000 more than were added during President George Bush's four-year term (1988-1992). The study also showed that the incarceration rate of African Americans continued to rise substantially under Clinton.

"President Clinton stole the show from the 'tough-on-crime' Republicans," said JPI President Vincent Schiraldi in a press release accompanying the report. "President Clinton was right to call for criminal justice reform in a recent Rolling Stone interview. He was wrong to do so little about it while he was in office."

The report's authors also called on President Bush to fulfill his recently articulated interest in "making sure the powder-cocaine and crack-cocaine penalties are the same" by abolishing federal crack/powder sentencing disparities this legislative session and "[making sure] our drug-prevention programs are effective" (CNN Inside Politics, January 18, 2001).

It also called on Bush to support "treatment not jail" programs, pointing to California's Prop. 215 and to ongoing reform efforts by Republican Governors Johnson of New Mexico and Pataki of New York.

"When Clinton came into office, he had a ten-year incarceration boom to outshine," stated report co-author Lisa Feldman. "As the governor with the nation's largest prison population and the most executions, President Bush has no need to prove his conservative mettle. He has shown he can be tough on crime -- now he has the opportunity to prove he can be smart on crime as well."

In other findings, the study reports:

  • In total, 673,000 inmates were added to state and federal prisons and jail during President Bill Clinton's two terms in office, compared with 343,000 under Bush and 448,000 under Reagan.
  • In the Clinton-era, the incarceration rate has climbed to 476 per 100,000 citizens, compared to 332 at the end of Bush's term and 247 per 100,000 at the end of Reagan's.
  • For African-Americans, the incarceration rate continued to increase by an average rate of 100.4 per 100,000 per year during the Clinton years. This comes on top of an already rapid increasing incarceration rate during the previous 12 years. 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 -- nearly nine times the rate for all US citizens.
  • Under President Bill Clinton's eight years, the number of prisoners under federal jurisdiction doubled (from 80,259 to 147,126), and grew more than it had under the previous twelve years of Republican rule.

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Issue #174, 2/23/01 New Report Rakes Clinton on Imprisonment | The Coca-Go-Round: Peruvian Production Starts to Increase as Spraying Destroys Colombian Fields | Washington State Hardliners Pitch Kindler, Gentler Drug War in Bid to Preempt Deeper Reforms | New Mexico: Update on Gov. Johnson's Drug Reform Package | Feds vs. Bongs: Heads Up for Head Shops | Newsbrief: American Pilots in Firefight With Colombian Rebels | Marijuana Has Less Adverse Effect on Driving Than Alcohol, Tiredness, UK Study Says | Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative Legal Briefs Online | An Invitation to Help Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws | | Erratum: Three Strikes Clarification | The Reformer's Calendar | Editorial: The Peace Process
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