Biden: 'Nobody Should Be in Jail For a Nonviolent Crime'

Posted: Sep 13, 2019 7:30 AM
Biden: 'Nobody Should Be in Jail For a Nonviolent Crime'

Source: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

During the third Democratic debate in Houston, Texas, on Thursday, Former Vice President Joe Biden said “nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime.”

The former vice president made the comment when he was asked about releasing nonviolent drug offenders.

DAVIS: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.

You all believe that the war on drugs has put too many Americans behind bars.

Vice President Biden, you have a plan to release many nonviolent drug offenders from prison. Senator Booker says that your plan is not ambitious enough. Your response?

BIDEN: Well, first of all, let me say that, when I came back from law school, I had a job with a great -- a big-time law firm. I left and became a public defender because my state was under siege when Dr. King was assassinated. We were occupied by the National Guard for 10 months.

I've been involved from the beginning. As a young congressman -- as a young councilman, I introduced legislation to try to keep them from putting a sewer plant in a poor neighborhood. I made sure that we dealt with redlining; banks should have to lend where they operate, et cetera.

The fact of the matter is that what's happened is that we're in a situation now where there are so many people who are in jail and shouldn't be in jail. The whole means by which this should change is the whole model has to change. We should be talking about rehabilitation.

Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime. As -- when we were in the White House, we released 36,000 people from the federal prison system. Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem. They should be going directly to a rehabilitation. We build more rehabilitation centers, not prisons. (Transcript via WaPo)

Many were shocked and quickly pointed out not only how extreme that statement was, but that as a lawmaker, he helped put many of those people in jail. 

The RNC sent out a quick reality check for Biden: 

Joe Biden spent his career being a “tough-on-crime Democrat” culminating with his 1994 crime bill which “many experts now associate with mass incarceration."

· “From 1970 to 1994, the rate of imprisonment exploded 400 percent, to 387 per 100,000 people. From 1994 to 2009, imprisonment continued to rise, doubling.” (MSNBC, 4/14/16)  

· Biden’s Crime Bill “authorized the death penalty for dozens of existing and new federal crimes, and instituted a federal ‘three strikes and you’re out’ provision.” (MSNBC, 4/14/16)  

· Biden’s Crime Bill “influenced states to increase their prison rolls. The bill granted states $12.5 billion to build prisons if they passed ‘truth-in-sentencing’ (TIS) laws, which required inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.” (MSNBC, 4/14/16)  

o “A 2002 Urban Institute study found that between 1995 and 1999, nine states adopted TIS laws for the first time, and another 21 states changed their TIS laws to comply with the crime bill’s requirements and then apply for funding. By 1999, a total of 42 states had such laws on the books, sustaining an increase in imprisonment.” (MSNBC, 4/14/16)  

Biden spent his career as a proponent of the death penalty and said that his crime bill would do “everything but hang people for jaywalking.” But Biden recently flip-flopped.