Institutional racism the problem, not '94 crime bill: Biden

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Vice President Joe Biden defended the 1994 crime bill — which has become a liability in the 2016 Democratic presidential race — as having "restored American cities."

The vice president, a principal author of that Clinton-era bill while a senator, pointed specifically to stepped-up "community policing" enabled by the bill's funding for 100,000 additional cops nationwide.

Joe Biden speaks with CNBC's John Harwood.
Sophie Bearman | CNBC

"When community policing was working, neighborhoods were not only safer but they were more harmonious," Biden said in a CNBC interview. "They were engaged in the neighborhood, which built confidence so that the African-American woman, living in a corner alone where the drug deal's going down in front of her house, literally used to have your phone number as a cop. She'd call you and say, "John, they're out in front of my house. But you're not giving me away, right, John?" And he didn't. So we had enormous success."

Amid falling crime rates, he added, "Now what's happened is we've cut the funding 85 percent."

Joe Biden speaks with CNBC's John Harwood.
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Critics say the law's sentencing mandates have resulted in excessive incarceration rates, especially for black men. The vice president said the fundamental problem remains "institutional racism" and its legacy in housing, employment and other realms.

"There are things I would change," he said. "But, by and large, what it really did: It restored American cities."

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