Joe Biden and Campaign Try to Rewrite the History of Impact of His 1994 Crime Bill on the Black Community

In a recent NPR interview Joe Biden’s Senior Advisor Symone Sanders tried to convince listeners that Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill was a good thing, but the facts show that it was a damaging piece of legislation that led to the mass incarceration of thousands of Black Americans which hurt families, communities and generational wealth.

“Much ink has been spilled about the crime bill and I think if we are going to talk about the crime bill we have to ensure that we are putting it in perspective of the times,  that crime was rampant and many folks across the country — you know African American pastors, Mayors, African American mayors,  the members of Congressional Black Caucus were urged, and were urging for something to happen and that is how the crime bill came about. There were lots of things in the crime bill that folks would say are good…” –Symone Sanders (NPR 6/22/20)

“So, when you take a look at my record, people talk about the crime bill. Crime bill didn’t increase mass incarceration, other things increased mass incarceration and the reason why, if you go back and look, and I know you talk about it, you go back and take a look. That’s why you had the vast majority of the black caucus at the time, supporting the crime bill.….Almost every major city with black mayors supported the crime bill because blacks were getting killed overwhelmingly as well…” -Joe Biden (The Breakfast Club 5/22/20)


  • “A crime against the American people.” –NAACP (Christian Science Monitor, 4/28/94)
  • “I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” he said of the trend toward increased incarceration, “and I want to admit that.” –President Bill Clinton (NAACP, 7/16/2015)
  • “That crime bill was shameful, what it did to black and brown communities like mine [and] low-income communities from Appalachia to rural Iowa. It was a bad bill.”-Senator Cory Booker (The Huffington Post, 5/30/19)
  • “…The hundreds of thousands of Americans unjustly sent to prison for long periods of time, the families torn apart, the effects of mass incarceration we are feeling to this day in New York and all over this country, and look, the crime bill was the foundation of that horrible era of mass incarceration…look at the fact that the bill had a disproportionate impact on African Americans and Latinos…that bill was a huge mistake…” –New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (CBS News, 5/30/19)
  • “It destroyed entire neighborhoods, destroyed entire communities and we’re still paying the price and suffering from it.” -Patrisse Cullors, Black Lives Matter Co-Founder (LA Times, 6/26/19)
  • “The 1994 federal crime bill that created tough new criminal sentences and incentivized states to build more prisons and pass truth-in-sentencing laws is getting new scrutiny during this 2020 election cycle.” – Udi Ofer, Deputy National Political Director and Director of Campaign for Smart Justice, ACLU (ACLU, 6/4/19)
  • “Many consider the crime bill to be one of the cornerstone statutes that accelerated mass incarceration. But the law’s negative effects did not end there. States and localities were incentivized through a massive infusion of federal funding to build more jails and prisons and to pass so-called truth-in-sentencing laws and other punitive measures that simultaneously increased the number and length of prison sentences while reducing the possibility of early release for those incarcerated. It has been well-documented that these policies were failures.” Ed Chung, Betsy Pearl, Lea Hunter, Center for American Progress (The Center for American Progress , 3/26/19)



  • Joe Biden Played A “Central Role” In Writing And Passing The 1994 Crime Bill  (Joe Biden, Press Release, 10/25/07)
  • The 1994 Crime Bill “Remains the Most Extensive Federal Crime Legislation Ever Passed.” (The Brennan Center, 9/9/19)
  • The Biden Crime Bill Included Measures Many Experts Now Say “Helped Give the U.S. The Highest Incarceration Rate in The World.” ( The New York Times, 8/21/15)
  • After Biden’s Crime Bill, The Incarcerated Population in America Doubled, from 1994 To 2009, With 12 Percent of People Incarcerated in U.S. Jails Reporting Regular Use Of Opioids. (Politico, 5/23/19)
  • The Most Significant and Long-Lasting Impacts of The Legislation Was the Authorization of Incentive Grants To Build Or Expand Correctional Facilities Through The Violent Offender Incarceration And Truth-In-Sentencing Incentive Grants Program. (The Brennan Center, 9/9/19)
  • This Fueled A Prison Construction Boom, For A Period in the 1990s, A New Prison Opened Every 15 Days on Average. (The Brennan Center, 9/9/19)

Joe Biden’s 44-year record is finally being fully examined. His record of making bigoted comments and his long legislative record of advocating for policies that actually hurt Black Americans should be contrasted to President Trump’s four years in office working to advance, support, and empower the Black community.

Now, Team Joe Biden is trying to convince Black American voters that his 1994 Crime Bill really wasn’t that bad for the Black community, and Black leaders were really the ones responsible for it instead of taking responsibility for his poor leadership and policy judgment.

Mr. Paris Dennard
Senior Communications Advisor for Black Media Affairs
Republican National Committee