Hillary Clinton’s Private Prison Hypocrisy

Clinton championed policies that increased incarceration, accepted donations from private prison lobbyists

Hillary Clinton greets supporters on the other side of a fence in 2008 / AP
September 28, 2016

Hillary Clinton slammed private prisons during Monday’s debate, despite lobbying for policies that have led to increased incarceration rates and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from private prison lobbyists this election cycle.

"I'm glad that we're ending private prisons in the federal system; I want to see them ended in the state system," Clinton said during her debate with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. "You shouldn't have a profit motivation to fill prison cells with young Americans."

While Clinton now approves of the Justice Department’s plan to end contracts with private prisons for federal inmates, she previously supported strict incarceration policies that led to a drastic increase in the prison population.

As first lady in 1994, Clinton lobbied for a "three strikes and you’re out" policy while calling for tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders.

"We will finally be able to say, loudly and clearly, that for repeat, violent, criminal offenders—three strikes and you're out," Clinton said at the Women in Policing awards held in New York City in August 1994. "We are tired of putting you back in through the revolving door."

Three strikes sentencing laws mandate life sentences for anyone who commits a crime "no matter how minor" if they already have two prior convictions for violent or serious crimes. Today, 28 states mandate heavier sentences for repeat offenders.

Also in 1994, Clinton pushed her husband’s crime bill, which "encouraged states to enact harsher sentencing statutes and expanded the list of crimes subject to the federal death penalty," Reason reported.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act signed by President Bill Clinton led to the construction of new prisons and increased the number of federal crimes.

The federal and state prison populations increased dramatically under Bill Clinton, according to a February 2001 report.

"The federal and state prison populations rose more under former President Bill Clinton than under any other president, according to a report from a criminal justice institute to be released today," the Los Angeles Times reported in 2001. "In fact, the analysis of U.S. Justice Department statistics by the left-leaning Justice Policy Institute, a project of a San Francisco-based justice center, found that more federal inmates were added to prisons under Clinton than under presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan combined."

In all, the prison population jumped by 673,000 under Clinton—235,000 higher than under Ronald Reagan. The incarceration rate during the last year of Clinton’s presidency was 61 percent higher than the last year of George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

"The federal incarceration rate in 1999, the last year of the Democrat’s term, was 42 per 100,000—more than double the federal incarceration rate at the end of President Reagan’s term (17 per 100,000), and 61 percent higher than at the end of President George Bush’s term (25 per 100,000), according to JPI," Salon wrote last year.

Clinton struggled to defend Bill Clinton’s law earlier this year during a Democratic debate. "My husband has apologized. He was the one who signed it," she said.

Clinton has taken hundreds of thousands in bundled contributions from lobbyists who represent the private prison industry during the 2016 election cycle.

One of Clinton’s top lobbyist bundlers, Robert Sullivan, is registered to work on behalf of Geo Group, a Florida-based company that operates one of the largest correctional systems in the United States.

Sullivan is a partner at the Washington, D.C.-based Capitol Counsel and has bundled more than $300,000 for Clinton’s campaign. Sullivan also bundled at least $345,000 for the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising effort between the Clinton campaign, Democratic National Committee, and more than 30 state parties.

Numerous other Clinton bundlers also are tied to the private prison industry, The Intercept reported.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not return a request for comment.

Published under: Hillary Clinton , Prison