Biden says he regrets 1990s crime bill, calls it a 'big mistake' at MLK Day event
Former Vice President Joe Biden accepted responsibility for his part in the passage of 1990s legislation that toughened sentences for crack cocaine possession, "a big mistake" because of its damage to the black community.
Biden spoke at a breakfast in Washington held to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. on what would have marked King's 90th birthday.
Bien atoned for his role in the passage of a crime bill that imposed stiffer sentences for those convicted of crack cocaine possession — a law that has disproportionately affected the black community.
Biden said he hasn't "always gotten things right," but has "always tried." He also spoke about his support for efforts by former President Barack Obama's administration to reduce crack possession sentences.
Biden was the head of the Senate's Judiciary Committee when the 1994 crime bill — which is now criticized as having helped create an era of mass incarceration — was passed and signed into law.
"It was a big mistake that was made," he told the Washington breakfast also attended by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "We were told by the experts that 'With crack you can never go back.'" He said: "It's trapped an entire generation."
Biden says the crack sentencing guidelines are one example of broader racial injustice in America.
"White America has to admit there's still a systematic racism," he said. "And it goes almost unnoticed by so many of us."
Biden joined a field of Democratic presidential hopefuls who fanned out across the country Monday to honor King and make themselves heard on the national stage.
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