Joe Biden drafted the 1994 Crime Bill that imposed mandatory minimums, created tough new criminal sentences, incentivized states to build new prisons, and instituted the death penalty for nearly 60 more crimes. The crime bill led to an astronomical increase in the number of nonviolent inmates in prison between 1994 and 2004. This was partially due to unduly harsh sentences for small quantities of crack cocaine.

The crime bill also sentenced juveniles as adults, thus separating them from their families and disrupting their education. The crime bill disproportionately affected minorities and the poor by imposing harsh sentences for possession of crack cocaine.