NCCD Now: The Impact of the Crime Bill

NCCD Now: The Impact of the Crime Bill

October 27, 2014 | Danielle Stewart, Communications Coordinator and Faizah Barlas, Communications Intern, NCCD

istock_000018308736large

Twenty-one years ago, Gian Luigi Ferri walked into the law offices of Pettit & Martin in San Francisco and opened fire, killing eight and injuring others. Just months before, a deadly shootout erupted when federal and Texas state law enforcement seized the compound of the religious group known as the Branch Davidians in an attempt to remove illegal weapons from their ranch in Waco, Texas. The gun battle resulted in the deaths of four agents and six Branch Davidians.

Twenty-one years ago, Gian Luigi Ferri walked into the law offices of Pettit & Martin in San Francisco and opened fire, killing eight and injuring others. Just months before, a deadly shootout erupted when federal and Texas state law enforcement seized the compound of the religious group known as the Branch Davidians in an attempt to remove illegal weapons from their ranch in Waco, Texas. The gun battle resulted in the deaths of four agents and six Branch Davidians. These two events are said to have sparked bipartisan support for the largest crime bill ever passed in the United States.

On September 13, 1994, former President Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Generally known as the crime bill, it had myriad repercussions. The best known of these is “three strikes,” which imposed a life sentence for violent crimes—no matter how small—if the defendant had been convicted of two crimes previously. By distributing $200 million in police hiring grants to communities in all 50 states, the Clinton administration authorized money to increase the number of police in the nation by 20 percent. The crime bill also expanded the death penalty, making 60 new crimes eligible for capital punishment, including drug trafficking. In addition, the bill provided $9.7 billion in funding for prisons and authorized courts to prosecute juveniles over the age of 13 as adults. Numerous sections of the crime bill came under criticism for being punitive and largely ignoring racial and socioeconomic factors that make certain communities more susceptible to conviction and incarceration.

As we observe the 20th anniversary of the crime bill, NCCD and its guest bloggers are taking time to reflect on where our criminal justice system stands today. This bill, which has been influential in shaping our criminal justice system, is often cited as helping to decrease crime; it also is seen by many as a catalyst of the prison industrial complex and mass incarceration. Are we safer, as a society, than we were 20 years ago? What lessons have we learned from the enactment of the bill, and where do we go from here? During the next month, we will discuss these questions and others like it on our blog. We will hear from academics studying the effects of the bill, policy makers who worked on the bill, and stakeholders and leaders in the field of criminal justice reform.

Blog posts will be listed here as they go live:

Marc Mauer, Executive Director, The Sentencing Project: Emotion-Based Criminal Justice Policy

Virginia Sloan, Founder and President, The Constitution Project: 1994 Crime Bill: Tough, But Not Smart, on Crime

David Muhammad: 20 Years of Flawed Criminal Justice Policy

Laurie O. Robinson, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University: The Crime Bill: 20 Years Later

Stephen Rushin, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law: The Unnoticed Transformation in Police Regulation

Nicole Pittman, Stoneleigh Fellow, NCCD Senior Program Specialist: Twenty Years of Questions About Child Sex Offender Laws

Angela Fitzgerald, Senior Researcher, NCCD: Engaging the Community: An Evaluator’s Perspective

Dick Durbin, 47th US Senator from Illinois: Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences