WASHINGTON ― Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) faced off during the vice presidential debate on Tuesday, and things got particularly interesting during a spat about how a president should improve the relationship between police and communities of color.
Kaine, like his running mate Hillary Clinton, said the solution is community policing. And Pence leaned more toward “law and order,” a cornerstone of the campaign of his running mate Donald Trump.
Though Kaine and Pence have pushed for different criminal justice policies throughout their careers, they have at times advocated for similar measures ― especially during the 1990s, when most public officials were “tough on crime.”
Here’s a brief rundown of where Kaine and Pence have stood on sentencing, policing and other criminal justice issues.
Kaine has spoken during the 2016 campaign about the need for “very significant criminal justice reform” and finding a new way to handle nonviolent offenders.
In an appearance on CBS in September, Kaine discussed problems with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The measure, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, instituted mandatory sentencing minimums and other measures that increased the prison population throughout the 1990s. Hillary Clinton’s support of the bill ― and her use of the racially coded term “super-predators” when discussing youth violence at the time ― has been a primary criticism of her current push for criminal justice reform.
“We have learned from painful experience that, as a nation, we are so far out of whack with the rest of the [world] in the way we use incarceration,” Kaine said. “We have to dramatically change that, and so Hillary and I both strongly support criminal justice reform, which isn’t just about sentencing … The crime bill in ’94, it had consequences that went farther than we wanted. We’ve got to roll that back, and I think there is some bipartisan interest in doing this now.”
Kaine also said communities have to be encouraged “to embrace what I call a community policing model, where they try to deal with crime by building stronger ties.” During his CBS appearance last month, he advocated for better mental health services for law enforcement.
Before joining the Clinton campaign, Kaine pushed for tougher restrictions on gun purchases following the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre. He also supported reducing mandatory minimums and vetoed a bill that would have increased executions in Virginia while he was governor. But executions did take place while Kaine was governor; he upheld the state law even though he is personally against the death penalty.
One blip on Kaine’s record, however, is his backing of Project Exile, which made illegal gun possession a federal crime. The program was heavily criticized as being racially discriminatory against black men in prison sentencing.
Pence’s record on criminal justice is all over the place.
In September, the governor was heavily scrutinized for refusing to remove a felony conviction from the criminal record of a man found innocent. But in 2014, Pence signed a bill into law giving former felons an opportunity to expunge their records if they’ve stayed out of the criminal justice system for a set period of time.
Pence also signed a bill in 2013 requiring inmates to serve longer sentences and increasing sentences for certain crimes. In March, he restored a 10-year mandatory minimum for people convicted of dealing meth or heroine if they have previously been arrested for selling those two drugs or cocaine.
Pence has opposed a federal measure fighting prison rape, says racial bias should not be discussed in police shootings and supported “tough-on-crime” laws in the 1990s.
But the governor has also taken steps to increase rehabilitation programs. He voted in favor of expanding services that help ex-offenders re-enter society in 2007. And in 2014, Pence announced the First Time Offender Program. As part of the program, low-risk male criminals who have never been incarcerated in a state prison are housed in dorm-like buildings at a correctional facility that mimics a school campus and provides inmates with courses on anger management and building life skills.