Joe Biden on Crime
Former Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)
In 1990s we released 38,000 inmates, changed police rules
We made sure we reduced the federal prison population by 38,000 people. We insisted that we change the rules that police engage in. We provided for body cameras. Everybody is talking about how terrible I am on these issues.
Barack Obama knew exactly who I was. He had 10 lawyers do a background check on everything about me on civil rights and civil liberties, and he chose me, and he said it was the best decision he made. I'll take his judgment.
Source: July Democratic Primary debate (second night in Detroit)
, Jul 31, 2019
1994: Billions for state prisons but fewer billions than GOP
In a campaign speech, former Biden claimed that his record on the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act had been "grossly misrepresented." He distanced himself from some of the key provisions of the law, including its billions in funding
for states to build prisons: "I didn't support more money to build state prisons. I was against it. We should be building rehab centers and not prisons," he said.
He was misrepresenting his own record. Biden expressed unequivocal support, in both
1994 and in the years following, for the law's billions in funding to build state prisons. He argued in 1994 that the law should include less money for prison construction than Republicans wanted to spend--but he emphasized that he too wanted to spend
Biden's campaign did not dispute our conclusion that Biden did support this kind of spending. Biden "was referring to how Republicans wanted to provide more money for prison construction than he felt was right," said a campaign spokesperson.
Source: CNN FactCheck on 2020 Democratic primary
, Jul 7, 2019
1992: pro-death penalty; 2019: congrats on ending it
Joe Biden said in a 1992 speech that criminal justice legislation he was pushing was so strict that "we do everything but hang people for jaywalking." Two years later, his signature crime bill made dozens of additional offenses punishable by death.
But in a little-noticed remark earlier this month in New Hampshire, Biden seemed to offer a decidedly different stance on the death penalty.
Fielding a question from a voter aligned with the ACLU about how he'd reduce the federal prison population,
Biden gave a long and winding answer: He defended his crime bill, advocated for reforms to the criminal justice system involving nonviolent and drug offenders, and said he was proud of his work with Barack Obama to cut the federal prison population by
Then, unprompted, Biden added: "By the way, congratulations to ya'll ending the death penalty here." Biden's campaign would not comment on his answer, or shed light on whether he's changed his position on the death penalty.
Source: Politico.com on 2020 Democratic primary
, Jun 20, 2019
Regrets supporting strict sentences, including on crack
Biden expressed regret for supporting tough-on-crime bills during his time in Congress, including a measure that established strict sentencing standards for crack and powder
cocaine offenses, which experts say have led to an era of mass incarceration that disproportionately affected black Americans.
Source: Axios.com "What you need to know about 2020"
, Apr 25, 2019
1990s: Supported tough-on-crime; 2019:considers those racist
At an event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, Biden repeated earlier statements of regret for supporting tough-on-crime measures in the 1990s, which included provisions now widely considered racially discriminatory and
at least partly responsible for current incarceration rates, in which African Americans are significantly over-represented.
"The bottom line is we have a lot to root out, but most of all the systematic racism that most of us whites don't like to acknowledge even exists," Biden said during a breakfast held by the Rev.
Al Sharpton and the National Action Network. "We don't even consciously acknowledge it. But it's been built into every aspect of our system."
Source: Washington Post, "Desegregation," on 2020 Democratic primary
, Mar 7, 2019
1993: Don't care why "predators" act; put them in jail
Joe Biden in a 1993 speech warned of "predators on our streets" who were "beyond the pale" and said they must be cordoned off from the rest of society because the justice system did not know how to rehabilitate them. Biden, chair of the
Senate Judiciary Committee, made the comments on the Senate floor a day before a vote was scheduled on the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
Biden said he did not care what led someone to commit crimes. "I don't care why someone is a malefactor in society. I don't care why someone is antisocial. I don't care why they've become a sociopath," Biden said. "We have an obligation to cordon them
off from the rest of society, try to help them, try to change the behavior. That's what we do in this bill. We have drug treatment and we have other treatments to try to deal with it, but they are in jail."
Source: CNN KFile, "Predators," on 2020 Democratic primary
, Mar 7, 2019
1994 Crime Bill got help for first time offenders, not jail
A spokesman for Biden said high violent crime rates at the time was key context to understanding the bill, adding that the 1994 crime bill included funding "to keep individuals who committed first-time offenses and non-violent crimes out of prison and
instead in treatment and supervision," and that Biden advocated for prevention funding. Two provisions of the bill that led to Biden's strong support of its passage: bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons and the Violence Against Women Act.
Source: CNN KFile, "Predators," on 2020 Democratic primary
, Mar 7, 2019
1980s community policing worked to reduce crime rate
In the eighties, when the crime rate exploded, I began to pursue a new--but in fact a very old--concept of policing. That was getting cops back walking the street so they'll know the shopkeepers, know the neighborhood. And getting the neighborhood kids
to know the cops and to trust them. We had moved away from that concept--the new model was a lone cop riding around in a police cruiser instead of walking the beat--and the best criminologists were advocating the old idea with a new name: community
policing. I finally got real funding written into the crime bill in 1994 that provided an additional 100,000 local cops. And it worked.
Violent crime dropped precipitously, from almost 2 million incidents in 1994 to 1.4 million in 2000. The murder rate
was cut nearly in half. Relations between the police and the black community, while far from perfect, were very much improved. But community policing became a victim of its own success. As crime went down, so too did public pressure to focus on policing.
Source: Promise Me, Dad,by Joe Biden, p. 37-40
, Nov 14, 2017
Police and communities must respect each other
Does the danger the police face prevent the police in your neighborhood from seeing the people they serve? I served in these communities as a public defender, and for 36 years as Delaware's senator. I know, and I see, the goodness and decency in
communities across the country. And I have also worked with thousands of honorable and decent police officers.
It is the responsibility of every community to recognize the humanity of the men and women who volunteer to put themselves in harm's way,
to answer the urgent call in the night, to do the best that they can. And it is the responsibility of every officer who takes an oath to protect and serve to respect the dignity of every person that officer encounters, young or old, male or female,
black, white, Hispanic, or Asian. We need to agree as a nation on two basic statements of truth. Number one, cops have a right to make it home to their families tonight. And number two, all minorities have a right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Source: Brennan Center for Justice essays, p. 4-5
, Apr 28, 2015
Community policing is expensive, but it works
I helped institutionalize community policing, in the 1994 Biden Crime Bill. When it started, it worked. But it's really expensive. It takes a lot of cops. In the beginning we had adequate resources. The 1994 Biden Crime Bill at the time was a pretty
expensive operation. It put another 100,000 cops on the street, and it cost $1 billion. But because crime was rampant, everybody signed on. And it worked.
Community policing costs a lot of money.
It's more expensive to have individuals patrolling the neighborhood than relying on technology . But since 1998, states, as well as the federal government, in large part because crime dropped, have started to slash budgets. We acted like the problem
was solved. Crime was not at the top of the country's agenda anymore. As a result, since 1998, funding for community policing has been cut by 87%. That means fewer cops on the streets and in neighborhoods, building recognition and trust.
Source: Brennan Center for Justice essays, p. 5-6
, Apr 28, 2015
1970: DE Public not receiving needed police protection
Joe also set himself up early as a crime fighter and defender of the police. In August 1970, when the New Castle County police released the latest statistics showing a 35 percent increase in major crime in the first six months of the year, candidate
Biden accused the Republican-led county officials of "a deplorable lack of leadership," saying the public was "not receiving the police protection to which they are entitled" despite a
17 percent increase in the budget for that purpose.
He proposed a four-point program that included an expanded police criminal division and the hiring of a full-time police director to achieve better cooperation between county and state police.
Source: A Life of Trial & Redemption, by Jules Witcover, p. 58
, Oct 5, 2010
1990 crime bill: more police & tougher penalties
Biden championed more community policing and spent long hours and days immersing himself in law enforcement culture, frequently attending and addressing police organization meetings. And in a pending crime bill in 1990,
Biden fought for more money for police departments, for a ban on assault weapons, and for tougher penalties for drug offenders, the bill was watered down by Republican opposition. Finally, in 1994 Congress passed a $30.2 billion Violent Crime
Control and Law Enforcement Act, sometimes known simply as the Biden Crime bill, which called for one hundreg thousand more police in the nation's city streets over six years. The measure won strong political support for the Democrats and
President Clinton from a police community that earlier had considered the Republicans as the law-and-order party. Biden ballyhooed the Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program as reducing crime for eight straight years, from 1993 through 2001.
Source: A Life of Trial & Redemption, by Jules Witcover, p.306-307
, Oct 5, 2010
Supreme Court wrong to deny federalization of wife-beating
Q: Are there Supreme Court decisions you disagree with?
A: You know, I’m the guy who wrote the Violence Against Women Act. And I said that every woman in America, if they are beaten and abused by a man, should be able to take that person to
court--meaning you should be able to go to federal court and sue in federal court the man who abused you if you can prove that abuse. But they said, “No, for a woman, there’s no federal jurisdiction.” And I held, they acknowledged, I held about
1,000 hours of hearings proving that there’s an effect in interstate commerce.
Women who are abused and beaten and beaten are women who are not able to be in the work force. And the
Supreme Court said, “Well, there is an impact on commerce, but this is federalizing a private crime and we’re not going to allow it.” I think the Supreme Court was wrong about that decision.
Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric
, Oct 1, 2008
Bush is impediment to hate crimes legislation
OBAMA: [to Biden]: There is a consequence to the demagoguery [over immigration]--hate crimes against Latinos have gone way up. We’ve also seen this epidemic of nooses being hung all across the country since the events down in Jena. So, what can we do to
strengthen the enforcement of hate crimes legislation? It is something that I will prioritize as president but I don’t want to have to wait until I am.
BIDEN: We can and we should move [the pending Hate Crimes legislation] forward.
The impediment right now is the president. We need someone in the civil rights division who is aggressive in going after these hate crimes. I would not wait. Why did we not hear immediately from the justice department in the Jena 6? Why did we not hear
immediately when the rash of burnings took place? Why did we not hear? The reason is that they are not committed. Hate crimes are just that. The vilest and filthiest of crimes. And when you let one celebrated hate crime go, you generate an attitude.
Source: 2007 Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum
, Dec 1, 2007
Biden Law of 1994 created several new capital offenses
Biden is credited for authoring several significant pieces of legislation in the area of federal law enforcement, including The Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act of 1994, widely known as the Biden Law, which:
The law was passed shortly before the Oklahoma
City bombing, and its provisions were applied to execute Timothy McVeigh. The legislation received bipartisan support, but was reviled by death penalty opponents and civil libertarians. Some believe it broke ground for the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001.
Source: The Contenders, by Laura Flanders, p.179
, Nov 11, 2007
- Banned the manufacture of 19
specific semiautomatic “assault weapons”
- Allocated more money to build prisons & set up bootcamps for delinquent minors
- Designated 50 new federal offenses, including gang membership, and created several new federal death penalty offenses, including
murders related to drug dealing, drive-by shooting murders, civil rights-related murders, murders of federal law enforcement officers, and death caused by acts of terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
Supports sentencing guidelines to put away violent criminals
Since the mid-1970s I’d been working on crime issues in the Judiciary Committee, and since the mid-1980s I had been the Democrats’ point man in the Senate on crime legislation. While
I have always been a defender of robust civil liberties for the accused, I have worked hard to give police the tools to fight crime--more cops on the street, better equipment, sentencing guidelines that put people away for committing violent crimes.
There have been times when my Democratic colleagues have thought I’ve gone too far over to the side of the police in law-and-order issues, but I have always felt that public safety and security is the first duty of government.
A government must ensure safe homes, streets, schools, and public places before it can fulfill any other promises.
Source: Promises to Keep, by Joe Biden, p.239
, Jul 31, 2007
Authored the Clinton crime bill & 100,000 cops on the street
I do have a record of significant accomplishment. The crime bill, which became known as the Clinton crime bill, was written by Joe Biden, the Biden crime bill. That required me to cross over, get everyone together, and no one’s civil
liberties were in any way jeopardized. We put 100,000 cops on the street. Violent crime came down. So I have a track record of being able to cross over and get things done.
Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC
, Jul 23, 2007
Separate juveniles from adults in jail
I authored that crime bill to put $10 billion in prevention and 100,000 cops on the street. The vast majority of gun crimes are almost all related to drugs. And what we do is we, instead of incarcerating our young blacks and other folks in the
inner city who are arrested for a violent crime, instead of separating these juveniles, we put them in with adults. They go ahead and they learn the trade. They learn the trade and they come back out.
Source: 2007 NAACP Presidential Primary Forum
, Jul 12, 2007
Voted YES on reinstating $1.15 billion funding for the COPS Program.
Amendment would increase funding for the COPS Program to $1.15 billion for FY 2008 to provide state and local law enforcement with critical resources. The funding is offset by an unallocated reduction to non-defense discretionary spending.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
This amendment reinstates the COPS Program. I remind everyone, when the COPS Program was functioning, violent crime in America reduced 8.5% a year for 7 years in a row. Throughout the 1990s, we funded the COPS Program at roughly $1.2 billion, and it drove down crime. Now crime is rising again. The COPS Program in the crime bill worked, and the Government Accounting Office found a statistical link between the COPS grants and a reduction in crime.
The Brookings Institution reported the COPS Program is one of the most cost-effective programs we have ever had in this country. Local officials urgently need this support.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
The COPS Program has some history. It was started by President Clinton. He asked for 100,000 police officers. He said that when we got to 100,000, the program would stop. We got to 110,000 police officers and the program continues on and on and on.
This program should have ended 5 years ago or 6 years ago, but it continues. It is similar to so many Federal programs that get constituencies that go on well past what their original purpose was. It may be well intentioned, but we cannot afford it and we shouldn't continue it. It was never thought it would be continued this long.
Reference: Biden Amendment;
Bill S.Amdt.529 on S.Con.Res.21
; vote number 2007-110
on Mar 23, 2007
Voted YES on $1.15 billion per year to continue the COPS program.
Vote on an amendment to authorize $1.15 billion per year from 2000 through 2005 to continue and expand the Community Oriented Policing Services program. $600 million of the annual funding is marked for hiring additional officers [up to 50,000]
; vote number 1999-139
on May 20, 1999
Voted NO on limiting death penalty appeals.
Vote to table, or kill, a motion to send the bill back to the joint House-Senate conference committee with instructions to delete the provisions in the bill that would make it harder for prisoners given the death penalty in state courts to appeal.
; vote number 1996-66
on Apr 17, 1996
Voted NO on limiting product liability punitive damage awards.
Approval of a limit on punitive damages in product liability cases.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)59; N)40; NV)1
Reference: Conference Report on H.R. 956;
Bill H. R. 956
; vote number 1996-46
on Mar 21, 1996
Voted NO on restricting class-action lawsuits.
Restriction of class-action security lawsuits.
Status: Veto Overridden Y)68; N)30; P)1
Reference: H.R. 1058 passage over veto;
Bill H.R. 1058
; vote number 1995-612
on Dec 22, 1995
Voted NO on repealing federal speed limits.
Repeal federal speeding limits.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)64; N)36
Reference: Motion to table Lautenberg Amdt #1428;
Bill S. 440
; vote number 1995-270
on Jun 20, 1995
Voted NO on mandatory prison terms for crimes involving firearms.
Vote on the motion to instruct conferees on the bill to insist that the conference report include Mandatory prison terms for the use, possession, or carrying of a firearm or destructive device during a state crime of violence or drug trafficking
; vote number 1994-126
on May 19, 1994
Voted NO on rejecting racial statistics in death penalty appeals.
Vote to express that the Omnibus Crime bill [H.R. 3355] should reject the Racial Justice Act provisions, which would enable prisoners appealing death penalty sentences to argue racial discrimination using sentencing statistics as part of their appeal.
Bill S 1935
; vote number 1994-106
on May 11, 1994
Rated 71% by CURE, indicating pro-rehabilitation crime votes.
Biden scores 71% by CURE on rehabilitation issues
CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants) is a membership organization of families of prisoners, prisoners, former prisoners and other concerned citizens. CURE's two goals are
The ratings indicate the legislator’s percentage score on CURE’s preferred votes.
Source: CURE website 00n-CURE on Dec 31, 2000
- to use prisons only for those who have to be in them; and
- for those who have to be in them, to provide them all the rehabilitative opportunities they need to turn their lives around.
More funding and stricter sentencing for hate crimes.
Biden co-sponsored the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act:
Title: To provide Federal assistance to States and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes.
Summary: Provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any violent crime that is motivated by prejudice based on the race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of the victim or is a violation of hate crime laws.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR1343 on Apr 3, 2001
- Award grants to assist State and local law enforcement officials with extraordinary expenses for interstate hate crimes.
- Award grants to State and local programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.
- Prohibit specified offenses involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
- Increase criminal sentencing for adult recruitment of juveniles to commit hate crimes.
- Collect and publish data about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on gender.
Establish a domestic violence volunteer attorney network.
Biden introduced establishing a domestic violence volunteer attorney network
National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act - Authorizes grants to the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence to work in collaboration with the American Bar Association Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and other organizations to create, recruit lawyers for, and provide training, mentoring, and technical assistance for a National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network.
Requires the Office on Violence Against Women of the Department of Justice to designate five states in which to implement the pilot program of a National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Referral Project and distribute funds under this Act.
Directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study and report to Congress on the scope and quality of legal representation and advocacy for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, including the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
Source: Domestic Violence Attorney Network Act (S.1515/H.R.6088) 07-S1515 on May 24, 2007
Increase funding for "COPS ON THE BEAT" program.
Biden introduced increasing funding for "COPS ON THE BEAT" program
COPS Improvements Act of 2007 - Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to make grants for public safety and community policing programs (COPS ON THE BEAT or COPS program). Revises grant purposes to provide for:
- the hiring or training of law enforcement officers for intelligence, antiterror, and homeland security duties;
- the hiring of school resource officers;
- school-based partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and local school systems to combat crime, gangs, drug activities, and other problems facing elementary and secondary schools;
- innovative programs to reduce and prevent illegal drug (including methamphetamine) manufacturing, distribution, and use; and
- enhanced community policing and crime prevention grants that meet emerging law enforcement needs.
Authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to:
Source: COPS Improvements Act (S.368/H.R.1700) 07-S368 on Jan 23, 2007
- assign community prosecutors to handle cases from specific geographic areas and address counterterrorism problems, specific violent crime problems, and localized violent and other crime problems; and
- develop new technologies to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in crime prevention.
Reduce recidivism by giving offenders a Second Chance.
Biden introduced reducing recidivism by giving offenders a Second Chance
Recidivism Reduction and Second Chance Act of 2007Legislative Outcome: Became Public Law No: 110-199.
Source: Second Chance Act (S.1060/H.R.1593) 08-S1060 on Mar 29, 2007
- Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to expand provisions for adult and juvenile offender state and local reentry demonstration projects to provide expanded services to offenders and their families for reentry into society.
- Directs the Attorney General to award grants for:
- state and local reentry courts;
- Comprehensive and Continuous Offender Reentry Task Forces;
- pharmacological drug treatment services to incarcerated offenders;
- technology career training for offenders;
- mentoring services for reintegrating offenders into the community;
- pharmacological drug treatment services to incarcerated offenders;
- prison-based family treatment programs for incarcerated parents of minor children; and
- a study of parole or post-incarceration supervision violations and revocations.
Establish an FBI registry of sexual offendors.
Biden co-sponsored the Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act
Corresponding House bill is H.R.3456. Became Public Law No: 104-236.
Source: Bill sponsored by 15 Senators and 3 Reps 96-S1675 on Apr 16, 1996
- Establish a national database at the FBI to track each person who has been convicted of a criminal offense against a minor or a sexually violent offense; or is a sexually violent predator.
- Requires each such person who resides in a State that has not established a minimally sufficient sexual offender registration program to register a current address, fingerprints, and a current photograph with the FBI for inclusion in such database, except during ensuing periods of incarceration
- This requirement extends until ten years after the date on which the person was released from prison or placed on parole or probation; or for the life of the person if that person has two or more convictions for any such offense, has been convicted of aggravated sexual abuse, or has been determined to be a sexually violent predator.
Page last updated: Dec 29, 2019