U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager on Thursday reiterated the senator’s reasoning for voting in favor of the Clinton administration’s 1994 Crime Bill despite serious reservations. The House version of the bill included a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. Sanders had supported the ban since 1988. The conference committee version included not only the assault weapons ban but also the Violence Against Women Act provisions. Sanders supported these efforts to protect women.
In Sanders’ statement at the time, he criticized the mass incarceration and death penalty provisions in the bill, saying:
“…it is also my view that through the neglect of our Government and through a grossly irrational set of priorities, we are dooming tens of millions of young people to a future of bitterness, misery, hopelessness, drugs, crime, and violence.
And Mr. Speaker, all the jails in the world, and we already imprison more people per capita than any other country, and all of the executions in the world, will not make that situation right. We can either educate or electrocute. We can create meaningful jobs, rebuilding our society, or we can build more jails.
Mr. Speaker, let us create a society of hope and compassion, not one of hate and vengeance.”
During consideration of the bill, Sanders voted six times to weaken or eliminate the death penalty provisions and voted separately against creating new mandatory minimums. Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton spoke strongly in favor of increased incarceration, labeling at risk youth as “super-predators” who had to be “brought to heel.”
“When this so-called crime bill was being considered, Bernie Sanders criticized its harsh incarceration and death penalty provisions,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager. “Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, resorted to dog whistle politics and dehumanizing language. Bernie was right then and he’s right now. We need to invest in those communities that have been neglected in this country. Poor communities – more often than not, communities of color – deserve the same opportunities and education that other communities have. Bernie Sanders has always known jails and incarceration are not the answer. Nor is heated rhetoric against young people of any race. You can’t throw vulnerable people under the bus just because it’s politically expedient.”