Twenty years ago this week, former President Bill Clinton signed a crime bill that was, in effect, a long-term experiment in various ways to fight crime. The measure paid to put more cops on the beat, trained police and lawyers to investigate domestic violence, imposed tougher prison sentences, and provided money for extra prisons, reports NPR. Two decades later, most agree that the experiment was a spectacular failure as prisons were filled beyond capacity, largely with minorities.
Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, attended the signing ceremony for the crime bill and joined the Clinton Justice Department. “We now know with the fullness of time that we made some terrible mistakes,” Travis said. “And those mistakes were to ramp up the use of prison. And that big mistake is the one that we now, 20 years later, come to grips with. We have to look in the mirror and say, ‘look what we have done.'”