by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Joe Biden claimed in a 1976 speech that the role of the criminal justice system was to punish rather than rehabilitate criminals, arguing that “you don’t have to be some racist so-called redneck to say that.”
Biden also rejected the idea that rehabilitation programs needed more federal funding, saying there was no effective way to cure criminals.
Biden’s remarks, captured on an audiotape obtained by the Washington Examiner, are at odds with his current criminal justice reform plan, which says the “criminal justice system must be focused on redemption and rehabilitation.” They also contradict his claim that he only helped pass strict crime bills in the 1980s and 1990s because he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, suggesting he held tough-on-crime views for decades.
Biden spoke at an annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Boise, Idaho in February 1976, over a decade before he became chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He said: “We liberals stand up and we say, ‘What we need to do is rehabilitate.’ And yet we go to any university in the United States of America and we find among the [academics] a recognition of the fact that we do not know how to rehabilitate.
“We have not found a way to rehabilitate. And yet we conduct the debate and tell ourselves if we only had more money we’d correct the system. That is not true. Flat out not true,” he said.