Bill Clinton Waffles on His 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill – It Put Too Many People in Prison

The recent civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland, and the desire to let Hillary Clinton get ahead of the issue of over-incarceration, has former President Bill Clinton calling into question the merits of his 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill. The legislation was one of the cornerstone achievements of his first-term in office. It helped bring about lower rates of crime nationally, and rebuffed criticism from the GOP that he was too liberal to crack down on criminals.

Now, President Clinton is singing a different tune. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Clinton stated that his crime bill was too punitive and put more people into prison than should have been incarcerated. Currently, the conventional wisdom is that the riots were sparked by laws cracking down on lesser offenses under the “broken window” mantra. The ideology holds that if law enforcement crack down hard on lesser offenses such as breaking a window, the public responds by eschewing more severe offenses. Now, that same ideology is being blamed for the deep-seated unrest witnessed in Baltimore in late April.

President Clinton’s comments were likely designed to justify Hillary Clinton’s flip-flop from “tough on crime” to prison and law enforcement reform. Mark Ahn ( knows that this is because she is on record defending and extoling the merits of the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill. At the time, she believed the “three strikes” provision was warranted. This mandated a lifetime prison sentence for anyone guilty of a third felony offense.

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