Hillary Clinton admits supporting the 1994 crime bill was a 'mistake'

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CBC PAC Chairman Talks Hillary Clinton, Responds To Crime Bill Critique

After six debates, it seems doubtful that any presidential candidate could truly offer any game-changing revelations. But during Sunday night's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton addressed a major point of controversy in her campaign head-on: She admitted her much-criticized support of a 1994 crime bill that influenced a rise in mass incarceration was a "mistake."

"There were some aspects of it that worked well, the Violence Against Women provisions have worked well, for example," Clinton told CNN's Don Lemon during the debate, according to ThinkProgress. "But other aspects of it were a mistake and I agree."

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The bill at the center of this controversy, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, was initially intended to curb crime. Instead, it effectively "expanded the death penalty, encouraged states to lengthen prison sentences and eliminated federal funding for inmate education," according to theAtlantic.

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The effects of the bill have been especially devastating for Americans of color. Sixty percent of the U.S. prison population is now composed of people of color, despite the fact that this population makes up only about 30% of the U.S. population overall, and 1 in 3 black men can expect to be imprisoned in their lifetime, according to the Center for American Progress.

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Hillary Clinton admits supporting the 1994 crime bill was a 'mistake'
CHARLESTON, SC - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits a South Carolina Strong non profit facility for former felons in North Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday February 24, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - FEBRUARY 24: Democratic Presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clintongreets supporters after visiting the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 February 24, 2016 in North Charleston, ahead of the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary on February 27. Last Saturday, the South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary shattered records with 137,092 more votes cast than in any previous primary. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - FEBRUARY 24: Democratic Presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slips as she walks up the stairs into the non-profit SC Strong, a 2 year residential facility that helps former felons, substance abusers, and homeless move into self-sufficiency February 24, 2016 in North Charleston. The South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary is held on February 27. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits a South Carolina Strong non profit facility for former felons in North Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday February 24, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - FEBRUARY 24: Democratic Presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clintongreets supporters after visiting the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 February 24, 2016 in North Charleston, ahead of the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary on February 27. Last Saturday, the South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary shattered records with 137,092 more votes cast than in any previous primary. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - FEBRUARY 24: Democratic Presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 February 24, 2016 in North Charleston, ahead of the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary on February 27. Last Saturday, the South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary shattered records with 137,092 more votes cast than in any previous primary. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - FEBRUARY 24: Democratic Presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits the non-profit SC Strong, a 2 year residential facility that helps former felons, substance abusers, and homeless move into self-sufficiency February 24, 2016 in North Charleston. The South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary is held on February 27. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits a South Carolina Strong non profit facility for former felons in North Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday February 24, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - FEBRUARY 24: Democratic Presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clintongreets supporters after visiting the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 February 24, 2016 in North Charleston, ahead of the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary on February 27. Last Saturday, the South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary shattered records with 137,092 more votes cast than in any previous primary. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits a South Carolina Strong non profit facility for former felons in North Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday February 24, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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In addition to the racially charged elements of the legislation, some have argued that then-first lady Hillary Clinton's support of the bill was racist in and of itself. Clinton used "racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals," in her support of the bill, scholar Michelle Alexander noted in the Nation, such as referring to this group as "super-predators" with "no conscience, no empathy."

Many voters of color have recently demonstrated that they are unwilling to forgive and forget Clinton's past support of the bill. In February, for example, a video of student Ashley Williams asking Clinton to apologize for her stance on mass incarceration went viral, and further prompted Twitter users to use the hashtag #WhichHillary to interrogate her policies.

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Clinton has clearly heard and processed this criticism. She said she will seek a "comprehensive" solution to the issues that have stemmed from it, according to ThinkProgress. She vowed to pursue "fixing the criminal justice system, going after systemic racism that stalks the justice system, ending private prisons and ending the incarceration of low level offenders and I am committed to doing that," according to the report.

This promise adds to those she made during a speech in February at Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in which she railed against the "epidemic of African-Americans being killed by police" and called for "real plans to combat systemic racism." She even published a plan to do just that on her website, including a proposed $2 billion to support school reform and "implement social and emotional support interventions."

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Many black voters seem impressed by Clinton's plans. Polls found that Clinton especially dominates among black women voters, and those same voters crucially boosted her Super Tuesday wins.

Ultimately, despite past mistakes, Clinton's campaign is "about breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of all kids, so every one of them can live up to their God-given potential," she told the Washington Postin February, adding that her life's work has been, and presumably will continue to be, "about lifting up children and young people who've been let down by the system or by society."

See Bill and Hillary Clinton through the years:

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Bill and Hillary Clinton falling in love throwbacks
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Hillary Clinton admits supporting the 1994 crime bill was a 'mistake'
President Clinton gives first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton a kiss at a $1,000-A-plate fund raiser in Little Rock, Ark., on Friday, June 23, 1995. Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper also attended the event. Clinton told partisans, many of whom had supported him through many campaigns, It s my last election. I ll never run for anything else. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
President and Mrs. Clinton take a walk along the Gros Ventre River in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Thursday, Aug. 17, 1995. The Clinton's stopped to take a walk enroute to actor Harrison Ford's house for dinner. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton caresses her husband, President Clinton, during the ceremony celebrating the 75th anniversary of women's right to vote at Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., on Saturday, Aug. 26, 1995. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton comforts Hillary Rodham Clinton on the set of the news program '60 Minutes' after a stage light unexpectedly broke loose from the ceiling and knocked her down, January 26, 1992. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: Certain Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton (R) is applauded by his wife Hillary 14 July 1992, before his address to the Women's Caucus of the 1992 Democratic National Convention, New York. Clinton is campaigning in New York along with his running mate Sen. Al Gore. (Photo credit should read MARK PHILLIPS/AFP/Getty Images)
1993: American statesman Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, and his wife, lawyer Hillary Rodham Clinton, have a laugh together on Capitol Hill, Washington DC. (Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: First Lady Hillary Clinton (L) laughs after introducing US President Bill Clinton 27 April in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The President and First Lady were attending a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the Kennedy Center. (Photo credit should read RICHARD ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, : US President Bill Clinton (R) gets a hug from his wife Hillary after the presidential debate 16 October at Shiley Theater at the University of San Diego in California. This is the last debate prior to the 05 presidential election. AFP PHOTO Vince BUCCI (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton (R) leans towards US First Lady Hillary Clinton 17 July in the East Room of the White House during a ceremony for the Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies Program. Arkansas court watchers are expecting President Clinton to testify by videotape 17 July in the criminal trial of two former associates. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
291964 06: (NO NEWSWEEK - NO USNEWS) President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary dance at an inaugural ball January 20, 1997 in Washington, DC. Clinton attended various inaugural balls after his defeat of Bob Dole in the national presidential election. (Photo by Cynthia Johnson/Liaison)
PHILADELPHIA, : US President Bill Clinton has his chin pinched by First Lady Hillary Clinton during kick-off ceremonies for the Presidents' Summit for America's Future at the Marcus Foster Stadium 27 April in Philadelphia, PA. The Clintons were joined by the Vice President, and former Presidents Bush, and Carter for the volunteerism campaign. AFP PHOTO PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
ST. THOMAS, UNITED STATES: US President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton dance on the beach of Megan Bay, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands 04 January shortly after taking a swim. The President and his family concluded their vacation on the tropical island and are returning to Washington. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 10: (NO U.S. TABLOID SALES) U.S President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton smile at each other during a Democratic Business Leaders event September 10, 1998 in Washington D.C. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
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h/t ThinkProgress

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