Bernie Sanders on Crime

Democratic primry challenger; Socialist Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


1990s "super-predator" was racist term and everybody knew it

Q [to Clinton]: Do you regret your advocacy for the crime bill?

CLINTON: Well, look, I supported the crime bill. My husband has apologized. He was the president who actually signed it, Senator Sanders voted for it. I'm sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people's lives.

Q [to Sanders]: You called out President Clinton for defending Secretary Clinton's use of the term "super-predator" back in the '90s when she supported the crime bill. Why did you call him out?

SANDERS: Because it was a racist term, and everybody knew it was a racist term. Look, much of what Secretary Clinton said was right. We had a crime bill. I voted for it. It had the Violence Against Women Act in it. When as mayor of Burlington, we worked very hard to try to eliminate domestic violence. This took us a good step forward. We're talking about the weapon that killed the children in Sandy Hook. This banned assault weapons, not insignificant.

Source: 2016 Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn NY , Apr 15, 2016

Crime bill had good parts (VAWA) & bad parts (death penalty)

Q: Why should black people trust you this time to get it right, after you supported the 1994 Crime Bill that resulted in locking up a generation of black men?

CLINTON: Well, Senator Sanders voted for it as well; will you ask him too? Some aspects--the violence against women [VAWA] provisions--have worked well. But, other aspects of it were a mistake.

SANDERS: As we all know, there are bills in congress that have bad stuff--Good stuff and bad stuff in the same bill. Now, if I have voted against that bill, Clinton would say, "Bernie voted against the ban on assault weapons. Bernie voted against the violence against women act." Those were good provisions in the bill. Violence against women act has protected millions of women in this country, it was in that bill. The ban on assault weapons, that's what I have fought for my whole life. It was in that bill. I tried to get the death penalty aspects in that bill out. Clinton have a disagreement. I was then, and I am now opposed to the death penalty.

Source: 2016 Democratic primary debate in Flint, Michigan , Mar 6, 2016

We need fundamental police reform

CLINTON: We have to restore policing that will actually protect the communities that police officers are sworn to protect. But, I would also add this. There are other racial discrepancies. Really systemic racism in this state, as in others, education, in employment, in the kinds of factors that too often lead from a position where young people, particularly young men, are pushed out of school early, are denied employment opportunities. So, when we talk about criminal justice reform and ending the era of mass incarceration, we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities.

SANDERS: We need fundamental police reform. I would hope that we could all agree that we are sick and tired of seeing videos on television of unarmed people, often African-Americans, shot by police officers.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

By 2020, I pledge to have fewer people in jail than China

Where we are failing is in the very high rate of recidivism we see. People are being released from jail without the education, without the job training, without the resources they need to get their lives together, then they end up back in jail. When we have more people in jail, disproportionately African American and Latino, than China does, a communist authoritarian society four times our size. At the end of my first term as president we will not have more people in jail than any other country
Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Whites & blacks smoke pot equally, but blacks go to jail

What we have to do is end over-policing in African- American neighborhoods. The African-American community and the white community do marijuana at about equal rates. The reality is four times as many blacks get arrested for marijuana. Far more blacks get stopped for traffic violations. We need fundamental police reform when we talk about a criminal justice system. What we have got to do is make it clear that any police officer who breaks the law will be held accountable.
Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Government should not be part of the death penalty

Q [to Clinton]: You said that capital punishment has a place in a very few federal cases?

CLINTON: I do reserve it for particularly heinous crimes, like terrorism. I thought it was appropriate after a very thorough trial that Timothy McVeigh received the death penalty for blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

SANDERS: It's hard to imagine how people can bomb and kill 168 people in Oklahoma City, but this is what I believe: #1, too many innocent people, including minorities, African Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. We have to be very careful about making sure about that. But #2, of course there are barbaric acts out there. But, in a world of so much violence and killing, I just don't believe that government itself should be part of the killing. So, when somebody commits any of these terrible crimes that we have seen, you lock them up, and you toss away the key. They're never going to get out. But, I just don't want to see government be part of killing.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Create criminal records for corrupt white collar criminals

CLINTON: I went to Wall Street before the crash. I was the one saying you're going to wreck the economy because of these shenanigans with mortgages. I called to end the carried interest loophole that hedge fund managers enjoy. I proposed changes in CEO compensation. I called for a consumer protection financial bureau. The best evidence that Wall Street knows where I stand is they are trying to beat me.

Q: Senator Sanders, you have been a critic of Secretary Clinton taking speaking fees and having donations from Wall Street. What about her defence?

SANDERS: Wall Street is perhaps the most powerful political force in this country. You have companies like Goldman Sachs, who paid a fine for $5 billion for defrauding investors. It was one of those companies whose illegal activity helped destroy our economy. Kid gets caught with marijuana, that kid has a police record. A Wall Street executive destroys the economy, no criminal record. That is what power is. That is what has to change.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Involve U.S. Justice Dept. in every police killing

Q: I believe there's a huge conflict of interest when local prosecutors investigate cases of police violence within their communities. Most recently, we saw this with a non-indictment of the officers involved in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. How would you presidency ensure incidents of police violence are investigated and prosecuted fairly?

SANDERS: This is a responsibility for the U.S. Justice Department to get involved:

Source: 2016 NBC Democratic presidential primary debate , Jan 17, 2016

Police officers should not be shooting unarmed people

Today we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, 2.2 million people. Predominantly African-American and Hispanic. We are spending $80 billion a year locking up Americans. I think we need a major effort to come together and end institutional racism. We need major reforms of a broken criminal justice system. What does that mean? Well, for a start it means that police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African-Americans.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Jobs and education, not jails and incarceration

I was a mayor for eight years, worked closely with a police department. What we did is move that department toward community policing, so that the officers become part of the community and not, as we see, in some cities an oppressive force. We need to make police departments look like the communities they serve in terms of diversity. We need to end minimal sentencing. We need to pledge that we're going to invest in this country, in jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration.
Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

America has more people in jail than any country on earth

Today in America, we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. African-American youth unemployment is 51 percent. Hispanic youth unemployment is 36 percent. It seems to me that instead of building more jails and providing more incarceration, maybe--just maybe--we should be putting money into education and jobs for our kids.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Blacks are disproportionately imprisoned & killed by police

Black Americans are disproportionately overrepresented and overcharged in our current justice system. According to a 2013 report by the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group, one out of three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime, as compared to only one out of 17 whites.

Bernie has consistently spoken out about the problem of mass incarceration, particularly of people of color, calling it an "unspeakable tragedy." In May 2015 he addressed the issue at Drake University

"Isn't the justice system meant to protect all citizens? It should. But while black people make up only 13% of the population, they account for 31% of all victims killed by police. Blacks make up nearly 40% of unarmed individuals killed by police with a gun and 42% of unarmed individuals that are killed by police by means other than a gun. (And remember: statistics on police shootings are self-reported, so this data probably underestimates this depressing state of affairs.)"

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Reinstate voting rights to address school-to-prison pipeline

Black students who go to jail or juvenile detention centers have decreased literacy rates, can expect lower grades, drop out at a higher rate, and end up committing more crime. And this devastating problem is not exclusive to black Americans. In fact, this situation is so common it's been coined the "school-to-prison pipeline".
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

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 funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons.

Vote on an amendment that would reduce the funding for violent offender imprisonment by and truth-in-sentencing programs by $61 million. The measure would increase funding for Boys and Girls Clubs and drug courts by the same amount.
Reference: Amendment sponsored by Scott, D-VA; Bill HR 4690 ; vote number 2000-317 on Jun 22, 2000

Voted NO on more prosecution and sentencing for juvenile crime.

Vote to pass a bill to appropriate $1.5 billion to all of the states that want to improve their juvenile justice operations. Among other provisions this bill includes funding for development, implementation, and administration of graduated sanctions for juvenile offenders, funds for building, expanding, or renovating juvenile corrections facilities, hiring juvenile judges, probation officers, and additional prosecutors for juvenile cases.
Reference: Bill introduced by McCollum, R-FL; Bill HR 1501 ; vote number 1999-233 on Jun 17, 1999

Voted YES on maintaining right of habeas corpus in Death Penalty Appeals.

Vote on an amendment to delete provisions in the bill that would make it harder for prisoners who have been given the death penalty in state courts to appeal the decision on constitutional grounds in the federal courts ['Habeas Corpus'].
Bill HR 2703 ; vote number 1996-64 on Mar 14, 1996

Voted NO on making federal death penalty appeals harder.

Vote on a bill to make it harder for prisoners who have been given the death penalty in state courts to appeal the decision on constitutional grounds in the federal courts.
Bill HR 729 ; vote number 1995-109 on Feb 8, 1995

Voted YES on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment.

Amendment to replace death penalty crimes in the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill with life imprisonment.
Bill HR 4092 ; vote number 1994-107 on Apr 14, 1994

Rated 78% by CURE, indicating pro-rehabilitation crime votes.

Sanders scores 78% 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

  1. to use prisons only for those who have to be in them; and
  2. for those who have to be in them, to provide them all the rehabilitative opportunities they need to turn their lives around.
The ratings indicate the legislatorís percentage score on CUREís preferred votes.
Source: CURE website 00n-CURE on Dec 31, 2000

More funding and stricter sentencing for hate crimes.

Sanders 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.

  1. Award grants to assist State and local law enforcement officials with extraordinary expenses for interstate hate crimes.

  2. Award grants to State and local programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

  3. Prohibit specified offenses involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

  4. Increase criminal sentencing for adult recruitment of juveniles to commit hate crimes.

  5. Collect and publish data about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on gender.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR1343 on Apr 3, 2001

Require DNA testing for all federal executions.

Sanders co-sponsored the Innocence Protection Act:

Title: To reduce the risk that innocent persons may be executed.

    Summary: Authorizes a person convicted of a Federal crime to apply for DNA testing to support a claim that the person did not commit:

  1. the Federal crime of which the person was convicted; or

  2. any other offense that a sentencing authority may have relied upon when it sentenced the person with respect to such crime.

  3. Prohibits a State from denying an application for DNA testing made by a prisoner in State custody who is under sentence of death if specified conditions apply.

  4. Provides grants to prosecutors for DNA testing programs.

  5. Establishes the National Commission on Capital Representation.

  6. Withholds funds from States not complying with standards for capital representation.

  7. Provides for capital defense incentive grants and resource grants.

  8. Increases compensation in Federal cases, and sets forth provisions regarding compensation in State cases, where an individual is unjustly sentenced to death.

  9. Adds a certification requirement in Federal death penalty prosecutions.

  10. Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR912 on Mar 7, 2001

Increase funding for "COPS ON THE BEAT" program.

Sanders co-sponsored 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:

  1. the hiring or training of law enforcement officers for intelligence, antiterror, and homeland security duties;
  2. the hiring of school resource officers;
  3. 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;
  4. innovative programs to reduce and prevent illegal drug (including methamphetamine) manufacturing, distribution, and use; and
  5. enhanced community policing and crime prevention grants that meet emerging law enforcement needs.
    Authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to:
  1. 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
  2. develop new technologies to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in crime prevention.
Source: COPS Improvements Act (S.368/H.R.1700) 07-S368 on Jan 23, 2007

Reduce recidivism by giving offenders a Second Chance.

Sanders co-sponsored reducing recidivism by giving offenders a Second Chance

Legislative Outcome: Became Public Law No: 110-199.
Source: Second Chance Act (S.1060/H.R.1593) 08-S1060 on Mar 29, 2007

Rated 73% by the NAPO, indicating a moderate stance on police issues.

Sanders scores 73% by the NAPO on crime & police issues

Ratings by the National Association of Police Organizations indicate support or opposition to issues of importance to police and crime. The organization's self-description: "The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) is a coalition of police units and associations from across the United States. NAPO was organized for the purpose of advancing the interests of America's law enforcement officers through legislative advocacy, political action, and education.

"Increasingly, the rights and interests of law enforcement officers have been the subject of legislative, executive, and judicial action in the nationís capital. NAPO works to influence the course of national affairs where law enforcement interests are concerned. The following list includes examples of NAPOís accomplishments:

VoteMatch scoring for the NAPO ratings is as follows:

Source: NAPO ratings on Congress and politicians 2014_NAPO on Dec 31, 2014

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