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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Video: Biden’s Crime Bill Claims

In this week’s fact-checking video, CNN’s Jake Tapper discusses three claims Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made about his support for the 1994 crime bill. 

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 received bipartisan support at the time but has been criticized for some of its tough-on-crime provisions. Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, partly wrote the bill and guided it through the legislative process.

In a speech this month, Biden said, “I didn’t support the provision the president wanted in called three strikes and you’re out. Didn’t support it then, don’t support it now.” While Biden did oppose including nonviolent offenses and lesser crimes in the provision, he is on record at the time saying he supported a three-strikes provision for “serious [violent] felonies against a person.”

The final bill said anyone who committed a federal serious violent felony and had at least two prior convictions for federal or state serious violent felonies, or one of those being a drug distribution or trafficking offense, would then be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Biden also said, “I didn’t support more money to build state prisons. I was against it.” But Biden was for $6 billion in funding for state prison construction — not the $10 billion in the final bill. His campaign said the $4 billion difference is what he meant by “more money.”

Finally, Biden misleadingly said the crime legislation “worked in some areas. But it failed in others. … The violent crime rate was cut in half in America.” The violent crime rate dropped by 46% from 1994 to 2017, but experts say factors beyond the 1994 crime bill are responsible for most of that decrease.

Experts with the Brennan Center for Justice, for instance, wrote that the legislation likely contributed to the decrease by adding more police officers, but other factors included social and economic changes, such as an aging population.

For more on this topic, see our July 12 story “Biden on the 1994 Crime Bill.” Our past video collaborations with CNN’s “State of the Union” are available here.