Penn Cancro

1994 Crime Bill

The Scholar: Penn Cancro

The Project: The 1994 Crime Bill

The Essential Question: Why was there widespread bi-partisan support for the 1994 Crime Bill, and what does that reveal about American politics or society at that time?

What I Studied: I studied the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and I dove into why it was passed and what was the social climate that needed to exist for it to be passed. In 1994, stakes were high for lawmakers to take action on crime. The Clinton administration, having focused its campaign for election on economic policy, shifted its lens to crime and crime prevention. Their initial proposal called for 100,000 new police officers in cities around the country, limiting the purchasing and sale of assault weapons, and an expansion of the death penalty and capital punishment. The entire bill would be cultivated around the concept of being “tough on crime.”

What I Learned: The Clinton administration’s decision to push through crime legislation greatly hurt the country as a whole, as now officials are struggling to deal with mass incarceration that has destroyed towns and cities, created a large group of people who may struggle to assimilate back into society, and put away people for life that were deserving of nothing close to a life sentence.