By the end of Clinton’s first term, the U.S. had added an additional 277,000 prisoners — that’s more than twice as many prisoners added during Republican hero Ronald Reagan’s first term (129,000). By January 2001, Clinton oversaw the addition of 673,000 new inmates to state and federal prisons. Reagan had only imprisoned 438,000. Nearly 60 percent of those imprisoned during Clinton’s first four years were behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses. The crime bill had a reverberating effect throughout black communities — as prison spending went up, funding for programs meant to help the disadvantaged declined, according to Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander:
Federal funding for public housing fell by $17 billion (a 61 percent reduction) under Bill Clinton’s tenure; federal funding for corrections rose by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to Michelle Alexander’s seminal work, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” The federal government’s new priorities redirected nearly $1 billion in state spending for higher education to prison construction. Clinton put a permanent eligibility ban for welfare or food stamps on anyone convicted of a felony drug offense (including marijuana possession).