On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at Columbia University where she outlined her views on the criminal justice system, calling for "an end to the era of mass incarceration" and advocating "alternative punishments for low-level offenders."
Clinton's remarks stood in contrast to the "tough-on-crime" policies advocated by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
In a column she wrote in 1998 as First Lady, Clinton expressed support for those policies, including the 1994 crime bill that put more cops on the streets and imposed harsher prison terms.
"During the 1980s, lots of tough talk failed to stem the increase in violent crime. When my husband was elected, he abandoned tough talk and replaced it with a real strategy, focused on the local level, that combined tough prosecution measures with smart prevention efforts. The Brady Bill and his 1994 crime bill cracked down on the sale of handguns to fugitives, stalkers and felons, banned 19 types of assault weapons and funded 100,000 new police officers on our streets. Communities got the tools they needed to address their own crime problems.
The President's strategy has worked. We have seen violent crime decrease each of the last six years and overall crime rates go down to their lowest level in nearly 25 years."
Clinton further argued in the column that "the same approach can work" for juveniles as for adults and condoned policies wherein "young people who break the law are held accountable."
"This same approach can work for juvenile crime. Communities all across the country are abandoning rhetoric for prosecution and prevention strategies that show real results.
San Diego County is attacking this problem with a comprehensive plan in which law enforcement, schools, public agencies and communities work together. There is zero tolerance for guns and drugs in school. Young people who break the law are held accountable. Families in trouble are directed to a wide array of support services. And at-risk youth are steered into a variety of after-school activities."
Clinton called upon Americans to demand "tough measures that punish criminal behavior."
"The debate over juvenile justice must not be framed in terms of prevention OR prosecution. We must demand both: tough measures that punish criminal behavior and protect children in custody, along with strategies and programs to keep kids out of the criminal justice system in the first place. That's the formula for federal legislation that could really decrease juvenile crime across the country. Let's hope this Congress agrees."
Clinton also wrote favorably of the 1994 crime bill in her book, It Takes A Village.
In her speech Wednesday, Clinton said efforts to reform mandatory minimums were "long overdue" and that balance needed to be restored to the criminal justice system.
On Tuesday afternoon, Clinton's campaign spokesman addressed the contrast between her speech yesterday and Bill Clinton's policies as president.