Vera Institute of Justice Launches Initiative to Reflect on Impact of Crime Bill over Last 20 Years

NEW YORK, NY – The Vera Institute of Justice today launched a new initiative, “Justice in Focus: Crime Bill @ 20,” a three-month campaign to engage key voices in an ongoing dialogue that looks back at the impact of the 20-year-old Crime Bill as well as raises questions about what kind of policy we need for the next 20 years.

Vice President Joe Biden, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, the American Conservative Union’s Pat Nolan, PolicyLink’s Angela Glover Blackwell, John Jay College of Criminal Justice President Jeremy Travis, and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin are among the more than 30 voices who will add their unique perspective on the Crime Bill, how it has shaped where we are today, and what we must do differently for our future.

Their commentaries and reflections—in video, audio, and print—will be housed on Vera’s new online platform at In addition to the architects of the bill, there will be reflections from people directly impacted by it, including law enforcement officials, justices, victims, pirosn officials, and those who have been in prison. The online platform will also provide useful resources and tools for engaging on the issues and opportunities facing our criminal justice system today.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, known today as the Crime Bill, was the largest piece of criminal justice legislation in U.S. history. It was passed with strong bipartisan support in an era where high-profile violent crime gripped the nation.

President Bill Clinton signed the Crime Bill 20 years ago tomorrow, saying at the time, “My fellow Americans, this is about freedom. Without responsibility, without order, without lawfulness, there is no freedom.”

Now, two decades later, crime, especially violent crime, is down significantly. Women who have experienced domestic violence have more protections. Community-policing practices have been more broadly adopted. And the federal prison population has more than doubled while the state prison population has increased by more than 45 percent—largely because of harsher sentencing requirements and tough-on-crime incentives.

“Today, the recognition that we need to recalibrate our over-reliance on incarceration is both bipartisan and almost conventional thinking,” said Nicholas Turner, president of Vera. “There is increasing commitment to find solutions that keep crime rates low without imposing unnecessary burdens on communities or taxpayers. But there’s more to be done.”

Vera’s new online platform provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the legislation and its legacy, and what lessons can be applied moving forward.

The public can add their perspective on this important issue via social media using the #CrimeBill20 hashtag or email us directly at Vera will collect feedback and commentary throughout the campaign.

At the culmination of the three-month effort, an event will be held in Washington, DC to review and reflect on findings and commentary.