Former president Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonIs the US capable of thinking strategically? Bob Dole: heroic, prickly and effective Biden on Bob Dole: 'among the greatest of the Greatest Generation' MORE clashed with a heckler over his 1994 crime bill during a campaign speech for his wife in Paterson, N.J., on Friday.


Clinton was interrupted from his speech when the heckler shouted, “Why would you put more people in prison?”

The former president responded, “The crime bill, 1994, which you must be talking about, also contained a provision — which no one ever mentions — which forbade first-time drug offenders from being covered by the excessive sentencing laws. Did you know that? I bet you didn’t.”

Clinton added that there were provisions in the bill, which became law in 1994, that increased the number of police officers on the street and toughened gun safety laws. He argued those steps made the country the safest it had been in decades.

He also noted that he has in recent years worked to fight against harsh criminal sentencing like what was enacted in the 1994 law.

“More than a year ago, I went to the NAACP and I said the sentencing laws were way overdone and we needed to lower them,” he said.

“I’m all for this,” he added. “We overdid the sentencing in the '90s; we need to reverse it.”

Clinton added that his wife, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE, has also been working to address criminal justice reform. He also noted that Bernie SandersBernie SandersStudy: Test detects signs of dementia at least six months earlier than standard method The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 Democrats see Christmas goal slipping away MORE, her opponent, supported the law.

“Her opponent voted for the bill by the way,” he said. “Hillary was the first candidate in either party to actually advocate an aggressive effort to let young people who are nonviolent offenders out of prison earlier with education and training.”

“You don’t have anyone to vote for that didn’t have anything to do with this,” he told the heckler.

This isn’t the first time this year that the former president has been confronted about the law, which he renounced a year ago. Last month, he took heat from many on the left for defending the measure when confronted by protesters in Philadelphia.

"You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter," Clinton told the protesters who had interrupted his speech. "Tell the truth."

Clinton was campaigning for his wife ahead of New Jersey's June 7 primary, where 51 pledged delegates are up for grabs.