- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Former President Bill Clinton acknowledged Wednesday that policies he supported during the 1990s are at least partly to blame for incarceration rates in the country.

In 1994, Mr. Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which resulted in longer terms for prisoners and more police on the streets.

“The problem is the way it was written and implemented is we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison,” Mr. Clinton told CNN. “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.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who as first lady publicly supported the law, came out last week in support of sweeping criminal justice reform in the wake of the recent death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore, which set off protesting and riots in the city.

“It’s time we end the era of mass incarceration,” said Mrs. Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner. “There is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes. And an estimated 1.5 million black men are ‘missing’ from their families and communities because of incarceration and premature death.”

Mr. Clinton said he agreed with her new focus, calling bipartisan calls for such reforms “one of the most hopeful things.”

“I mean, going from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats and the people in between saying there’s too many people in jail and we’re not doing enough to rehabilitate the ones you could rehabilitate,” Mr. Clinton said. “We’re wasting too much money locking people up who don’t need to be there.”

Mr. Clinton did point to Republicans who strongly pushed a “three strikes” provision in the law requiring life imprisonment for federal offenders convicted of a violent felony after at least two prior convictions.

“But I wanted to pass a bill and so I did go along with it,” Mr. Clinton said, referencing the legislation that put more officers on the streets, boosted prison funding and banned assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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