Cory Booker Criticizes Biden Over Crime Bill That Intensified War On Drugs

By Lindsey Weedston 07/08/19

Booker wants Biden to take more accountability for his role in passing legislation that exacerbated sentencing disparities in black and brown communities.  

Cory Booker criticizing Joe Biden over crime bill that intensified war drugs
Photo via YouTube

Presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker brought up Joe Biden’s 1994 crime bill as a key factor in the “War on Drugs” and the increasingly disproportionate incarceration of people of color in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which then-Senator Joe Biden helped to write and pass, increased the number and average length of prison sentences in the U.S. and incentivized local governments to build more prisons and jails. Criminal justice reform advocates have pointed to this bill as the start of an accelerated rate of mass incarceration.

“These are very typical, painful issues to the point now that, because of a lot of the legislation that Joe Biden endorsed, this war on drugs, which has been a war on people, we now have had a 500% increase in the prison population since 1980, overwhelmingly black and brown,” Booker said. “There’s more African Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850. These are real, painful, hurtful issues.”

Sentencing Disparities Persist

Booker also pointed out that other Democrats who were involved in the creation and passage of the 1994 bill have expressed remorse while Joe Biden has continued to defend it.

“But what we’ve seen, from the vice president, over the last month, is an inability to talk candidly about the mistakes he made, about things he could’ve done better, about how some of the decisions he made at the time, in difficult context, actually have resulted in really bad outcomes,” he said.

According to The Sentencing Project, there are more people behind bars today for a drug-related offense than the entire prison and jail population for any crime in the year 1980. One in three black men will be behind bars during some period of their lives. That number is one in 17 for white men.

Incarceration Rates Soar

Incarceration rates, particularly for low-level drug offenses, have skyrocketed while crime rates have decreased overall across the country since 1980. Violent crime rates in particular have fallen sharply during the past 25 years, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.

Senator Booker has made criminal justice reform a central issue for his 2020 presidential campaign. In June, he revealed a plan to commute the sentences of 17,000 prisoners convicted of drug-related crimes, followed by a bill to protect immigrants from being deported or denied entry into the country for cannabis possession.

“For decades, this broken system has hollowed out entire communities, wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, and failed to make us safer,” Booker’s campaign website reads. “As president, Cory will fight to end the War on Drugs, implement bold and comprehensive reforms of our criminal justice system, and pursue restorative justice.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: