Have tough criminal sentences actually harmed America?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 22, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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O'REILLY: Factor "Follow-Up" segment tonight, one of the biggest lies in the current presidential campaign is tough criminal sentences have harmed America. In 1994, violent crime was out of control in this country. And if there had not been a federal crackdown, the Manhattan Institute estimates that 129,000 black Americans would be dead today. Crime has dropped to historic lows in the U.S.A. But that fact does not seem to penetrate the Democratic Party.


SANDERS: We need to end the so-called war on drugs which has resulted in a disproportionate numbers of African-Americans being arrested.

VAN JONES, DEMOCRATIC COMMENTATOR: Right now African-Americans and white kids use drugs at exactly the same level. Nobody knows that exactly the same. But African-American kids go to prison six times more because there is this idea that these guys are the drug dealers.


O'REILLY: Now, for the record, that sound bite, that Blacks go to prison six times more than whites for drug offenses is false.

With us now Heather MacDonald for the Manhattan Institute. First of all, let's deal with that Van Jones statement. Where did he get that?

HEATHER MACDONALD, THE MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: Well, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that he was just confused in the heat of the moment because I don't know what he is talking about. The fact is, Bill, that nobody, no kid is going to prison for smoking a joint and no adult is going to prison for smoking a joint. It has to work very hard to get sentence to do prison. The major conceit here is that somehow the drug war is responsible for our incarceration rate. That's just not the case. It's violent crime that is driving our prisons and as you said, when we didn't have our incarceration rate that we do today, we had much higher levels of violent crime and the primary beneficiaries of the drop in violent crime has been Black law abiding inner city residents.

O'REILLY: All right. So you say 129,000 African-Americans, the country over, who are alive today would be dead had not the federal government instituted tough sentencing on violent predators, mandatory sentences if you commit three felonies you have got to go for a long period of time. If that did not happen, then it would be 129,000 dead blacks that are still alive today, right?

MACDONALD: Well, the federal crime bill was only one component of our crime drop. Frankly, what I think is more important is data driven proactive policing. And that happened in 1994 in New York City.

O'REILLY: Yes. That was part of the bill.

MACDONALD: No, that came out of New York City, the whole con stat idea of using data incredibly efficiently to target crime hot spots and asking officers to interview --

O'REILLY: But that came with stop and frisk. Stop and frisk came with that.

MACDONALD: That's part of that, exactly.

O'REILLY: Right. Now stop and frisk is gone. Let's go back to the drug offenders for a moment. So you are saying that the violent crime, those people are inhabiting the prisons much more so than the drug dealers?

MACDONALD: There is less than four percent of people in prison, in state prisons for possessing drugs.

O'REILLY: All right.

MACDONALD: Those have been --

O'REILLY: But Obama, President Obama says, if you deal and we debated this stuff on the program. If we deal hard drugs nonviolent. You should not get a harsh sentence. You should get, you know, rehab or whatever, you know, assuming they are addicted. And I just think that you put the drug dealers back on the street. You don't punish them. The risk/reward goes up. They are making a lot of money and only do a little time. Right?

MACDONALD: Well, again, in state prisons there's only 12 percent of people in there for actually dealing drugs.

O'REILLY: Only 12 percent in state prison.

MACDONALD: In state prison.

O'REILLY: And when federal?

MACDONALD: Fifty percent. But that's only 13 percent total of our prison population.

O'REILLY: So it's a much smaller sample in federal.

MACDONALD: It's irrelevant. Federal prisons are irrelevant.

O'REILLY: State prisons, only 12 percent are there for dealing drugs?

MACDONALD: Trafficking, right.

O'REILLY: So, most of the people that have been incarcerated and people of color at a higher percentage are people who are assaulting, murdering, raping other Americans?

MACDONALD: Fifty four percent of people in prison are there for violent crimes. And those people have very long criminal histories. Even people who are arrested for violent crime, 60 percent end up back on the streets. Three percent of all violent felonies and property offenders end up in prison. Ninety seven percent are not in prison.

O'REILLY: Yes. They give them time after time.

MACDONALD: You give time after time.

O'REILLY: One more question. Whenever you hear this Bernie Sanders stuff and -- you don't hear what you just said. You never hear what you said. Why doesn't the media seek the other side of the story?

MACDONALD: Racism sells. It is a powerful narrative that's put out there by the academy, by advocates.

O'REILLY: What's the academy?

MACDONALD: The universities.

O'REILLY: The universities.

MACDONALD: The criminology profession --

O'REILLY: Okay. Right.

MACDONALD: And the whole universities.

O'REILLY: Right. So there is industry that invested in saying America is racist place and they use the crime to bolster that theory.

MACDONALD: Those people should go to an inner city.

O'REILLY: They don't care.

MACDONALD: Community meeting, police community meeting they will hear we want more cops and want more enforcement.

O'REILLY: They don't care. All right.

MACDONALD: Okay. But the police are listening to the people in doing what they do.

O'REILLY: Heather MacDonald, everyone

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