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Joe Biden: The Crime Bill worked

In a new interview, Joe Biden defended the controversial 1994 crime bill that he helped draft as a senator and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Speaking to CNBC's John Harwood, Biden was asked if he is ashamed of the legislation because critics say it accelerated mass incarceration and specifically targeted black communities. The bill and its legacy has become a hot-button issue in this year's Democratic presidential primary.

"Not at all," Biden said. "Of the money in the crime bill, the vast majority went to reducing sentences, diverting people from going to jail for drug offenses into what I came up with the drug courts. Providing for boot camps instead of sending people to prison so you didn't relearn whatever the bad thing that, you know, got you there in the first place. Put 100,000 cops on the street."

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both come under fire for supporting the crime bill, which the Black Lives Matter matter has been rallying against throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.

"There are things I would change. I opposed, for example, the carjacking provision that the administration wanted in," Biden said.

But Biden argued that overall, it produced positive results.

"By and large, what it really did, it restored American cities," he said.

In the interview, Biden also told a story he shared in his 2009 farewell speech to the Senate about a lesson he learned about judging people. He said he came to the Senate floor one day four months into the job and he saw Sen. Jesse Helms "excoriating" then-Sens. Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole for precursor legislation to the Americans with Disability Act.

He said when he walked into his weekly meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, he said he ripped into Helms.

"I said, 'He has no social redeeming value, this guy,'" Biden told CNBC.

Mansfield then revealed that Helms and his wife adopted a young man whose picture they saw in an advertisement in a Raleigh newspaper that showed he had braces up to his hips on both legs and with crutches.

"'All I want for Christmas someone to love me and adopt me,'" the ad said.

"[Mansfield] looked at me, he said, and I've never violated it since, he said, 'Joe, it's always appropriate to question another man's judgment. It's never appropriate to question their motive because you don't know what it is. If I question your motive, we can never get to a compromise,'" Biden said.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.