Clinton: 'I signed a bill that made the problem worse, and I want to admit it'

Former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonWe must act now and pass the American Health Care Act Trump's message: Russia First or America First? Senate Democrats should grill Judge Gorsuch on antitrust. Here's how. MORE on Thursday disavowed a tough crime law that he signed in 1994, saying it made the problem of mass incarceration worse.

"I signed a bill that made the problem worse, and I want to admit it," Clinton said at the NAACP's convention in Philadelphia, a day after President Obama highlighted criminal justice reform there.

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While the package he signed placed 100,000 additional police officers on the streets and banned certain assault weapons, it also contained provisions critics say warped prison sentencing standards.

Among those was a federal provision mandating life sentences for those convicted of three violent felonies or drug trafficking crimes — the “three strikes rule” — and a provision allowing those as young as 13 to be tried as adults.

Clinton justified his decision to sign the two decades-old law, noting the rising crime that was plaguing the country when he first entered the White House.

"We had gang warfare on the streets. We had little children being shot dead on the streets who were just innocent bystanders standing in the wrong place," he said.

"In that bill, there were longer sentences. And most of these people are in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend," Clinton said. "And that was overdone. We were wrong about that. That percentage of it, we were wrong about."

"The good news is we had the biggest drop in crime in history. The bad news is we had a lot of people who were locked up, who were minor actors, for way too long.”

It is the latest policy that Clinton has recanted for in recent years, previously regretting his signature on the Defense of Marriage Act and the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that banned gay and lesbians from serving openly in the military. 

His wife, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonObama and Trump haven’t talked since inauguration Perez, Ellison start multistate ‘turnaround tour’ for Dems Watergate reporter on Russia: 'I’ve been saying for a while there’s a coverup going on' MORE, has embraced same-sex marriage and has called for criminal justice reform as part of her presidential campaign.