Lynch asks if prosecutors went 'too far' during 90s

Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 12, 2016.

Story highlights

  • "Have we overcorrected, so to speak?" Lynch said
  • Lynch said she is not counting on criminal justice reform on a federal level being passed this year.

Washington (CNN)Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Tuesday that as a "young prosector in the 1990s," she and many of her colleagues "thought we had gone too far" when it came to the policies used to battle the drug epidemic, particularly those enacted under President Bill Clinton's 1994 crime bill.

Now, Lynch says she can see the consequences of those policies, particularly the crack cocaine disparity laws, in overcrowded prisons and the mistrust communities have in the criminal justice system.
    "I saw the beginnings of the problems we're dealing with now and remembered the discussions with my colleagues around the table in the late 1990s about -- as we try and protect people, have we gone a little too far? Have we overcorrected, so to speak?" Lynch said at the Washington Post Criminal Justice Summit in Washington.
    "We were struggling with an epidemic of crime, violent crime in particular, and drug crime also. And people were trying to find a way to deal with that and as we talked about the time, many of us thought we had gone too far at that time, and now we're seeing the consequences," she continued.
    At the event, Lynch remarked on a range of issues facing the Justice Departments, while announcing almost $20 million in grants to multiple states to focus on criminal justice issues, such as funding for more drug courts to lower incarceration rates.
    And though Lynch said the Justice Department has seen success in lowering state incarceration rates through grants, she is not counting on criminal justice reform on a federal level being passed this year. Despite broad bipartisan support of many reforms that aim to "restore a fundamental fairness to our system," the impending presidential election will likely delay such actions, according to Lynch.
    When asked if she had been approached or if she would stay on as attorney general should Democrat Hillary Clinton win the presidency, Lynch said that "the transition is working independently of me, so I have not had those conversations."
    Lynch also touched on the recent decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on public corruption charges, saying that although she was "incredibly proud" of the case her office brought "with integrity," the reversal of his prosecution "set a standard for public corruption cases."