Crime Is Where Sanders and Clinton Are Most Linked
Hillary Clinton is criticized for her husband’s passing of criminal justice bills that would disproportionately affect minorities. While I think this is a bit rooted in sexism as she is not her husband who has since apologized, it’s a fair criticism because part of her platform is expanding upon her husband’s legacy and this is definitely apart of it. Hillary has renounced the stance as well.
However, Bernie Sanders has spoken at length about the detrimental affects of these policies. I agree with him, but Sanders was in the lawmaking body. What did he do to show his opposition towards this legislation?
The answer is not much other than talk. Bernie may be right that the number of inmates in the United States has quadrupled since 1980, but he leaves out that he is part of the reason. Michael Blatt on Sanders’ votes on monumental crime bills during the Clinton presidency.
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994)
Sanders voted for the bill which called for expanding the application of the death penalty on many more crimes, including large-scale drug trafficking. It also included a federal version of the “three strikes law,” requiring a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of a third serious crime.
Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994
Sanders voted for this bill which not only expanded the death penalty but also decreased the minimum age for minors to be tried as adults. It included incentives for states to adopt truth-in-sentencing (TIS) laws that lengthened prison sentences. It also provided money, with strings attached, for states to build more prisons, but only if they required that convicts for the most serious crimes would have to serve at least 85 percent of the sentences imposed on them (the “85 percent rule”).
Minimum Sentences For Gun Crimes Act of 1998
Sanders voted for this legislation which would have set a mandatory minimum of 10 years for crimes committed while in possession of a gun, 15 years for crimes committed while brandishing a gun, and 20 years for crimes committed while firing a gun. In the final version of the bill, the length of the sentences were cut in half.
The Local Government Law Enforcement Block Grants Act of 1995
Sanders voted against this bill that would have “demilitarized” the police. It called for establishing drug courts and prohibited local governments from purchasing tanks or armored personnel carriers.
The Clintons have a subpar record on criminal justice dating back to the early 90’s where Democrats were trying to rebuff the stereotype that Democrats were soft on crime. Bernie Sanders was right there with the Democrats he was caucusing with voting for those bills that put minorities in jail and lengthened prison sentences.
Profitting Off Prison
The Clintons were definitely invested and profitting off of the prison-industrial complex. The problem with that is so has Bernie and so have you. It’s all a matter of degree. Ray Downs explains:
The Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments are America’s top two 401(k) providers. They are also two of the private prison industry’s biggest investors.
Together, they own about 20 percent of both CCA and GEO. That means if you have a 401(k) plan, there’s a good chance you benefit financially from private prisons. And even if you don’t, there are many more mutual funds, brokerage firms, and banks that invest in private prisons—it being a growth industry and all—so if you have money somewhere other than your wallet or your mattress, it’s a good bet you’re involved in some way with companies that are locking up and probably abusing inmates.
This is especially true for government employees like public school teachers because their retirement funds are some of the biggest investors in private prisons. According to NASDAQ data, the retirement funds for public employees and teachers in New York and California together have about $60 million ($30 million each) invested in CCA and GEO. Teacher retirement funds in Texas and Kentucky have $8.3 million and $4 million invested in prisons respectively, and public employees in Florida ($10.3 million), Ohio ($8.6 million), Texas ($5.6 million), Arizona ($5.3 million), and Colorado ($2.25 million) are also connected to the industry. Except for New York, which has only one privately run detention facility, each of these states has several prisons run by CCA and GEO Group facilities. And it’s not just Americans who have ties to prisons. Foreign investors have money in them as well, including the pension fund for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which recently sold off its $5.1 million worth of GEO Group stock.
Most of these employees are probably unaware that their pensions are tied to prisons—and it’s hard to say that these are “bad” investments from a purely capitalistic perspective, since these prisons are making money hand over fist.