[Congressional Record Volume 143, Number 4 (Tuesday, January 21, 1997)]
[Senate]
[Pages S145-S146]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




           S. 10, THE VIOLENT AND REPEAT OFFENDER ACT OF 1997

  Mr. ASHCROFT. Mr. President, earlier today Senator Hatch introduced 
S. 10, the Violent and Repeat Offender Act of 1997. Senators Lott, 
Domenici, Sessions, and I worked with him in developing the bill. While 
not perfect, the bill does take the initial steps in dealing with the 
epidemic of violent juvenile crime sweeping the Nation.
  Mr. President, the face of crime in America is indeed changing. 
Throughout our history, one thing has been clear: government's first 
responsibility is to keep the citizenry safe. John Jay wrote in The 
Federalist, No. 3, ``Among the many objects to which a wise and free 
people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing 
for their safety seems to be first.''
  The murderers, robbers, rapists, and drug dealers of yesteryear were 
typically adults. Now they are typically juveniles. As the age of these 
criminal predators becomes younger and younger with each passing year, 
so does the age of their victims.
  Last Wednesday afternoon, 12-year-old Darryl Dayan Hall was abducted 
at gunpoint from the Southeast Washington area by three teenagers of a 
gang known as the Simple City Crew. This is the same gang that opened 
gunfire at a crowded community swimming pool in June 1993, wounding six 
children. This past Saturday, police found Darryl's frozen body. He had 
been shot once in the back of the head and at least once in the body.
  The three teenagers who are now charged with Darryl's murder have had 
numerous prior brushes with the law. One of Darryl's assailants was 
charged as a juvenile with possession of PCP in 1995 and then was 
released--as is too often the case--promising not to run afoul of the 
law again. Another of Darryl's assailants was, and is, on probation 
following his juvenile conviction last spring for possession of PCP 
with intent to distribute. Darryl's third assailant was charged as a 
juvenile just last month with carrying a deadly weapon.
  Mr. President, from 1984 to 1994, the number of juveniles murdered in 
this country increased 82 percent. In 1994, one of every five juveniles 
murdered was killed by another juvenile. The rate at which juveniles 14 
to 17 years old were arrested for murder grew by 22 percent from 1990 
to 1994 and the problem is going to get worse, much worse.
  Congress over the last three decades has established 131 separate 
Federal programs--administered by 16 different departments and 
agencies--to serve delinquent and at-risk youth, according to a report 
issued by GAO last March. Conservative estimates of Federal 
appropriations used for these at-risk and delinquent youth programs was 
more than $4 billion in fiscal year 1995.
  Despite this ongoing massive expenditure, the Federal Government has 
failed to meet its responsibility of providing public safety in this 
arena because it has not focused on holding juveniles accountable for 
their violent crimes. We now have a new category of offenders that 
requires a different, tougher approach. In short, we have criminals in 
our midst--young criminals--not juvenile pranksters and truants.
  The juvenile offenders of today will become the career criminals of 
tomorrow, if government continues to fail to recognize that America has 
an acute social illness that cannot be cured solely with money spent on 
social programs. This legislation introduced today takes a common sense 
approach in dealing with the current epidemic of juvenile violence. It 
would help States make urban, suburban, and rural communities safe once 
again.
  The bill would provide $2.5 billion over 5 years in new incentive 
grants for States to enact accountability-based reforms in their 
juvenile justice systems. This legislation would authorize funding for 
various programs, including efforts aimed at trying our most violent 
juveniles as adults; establishing the ability of States to collect 
juvenile criminal records, fingerprints, and photographs, and to share 
such criminal histories and information within a State, with other 
States, and with the Federal Government; and establishing Serious 
Habitual Offender Comprehensive Action Program [SHOCAP]. Religious 
organizations would also be permitted to participate in the 
rehabilitative programs included in the bill.

  Mr. President, serious, violent, and repeat juvenile offenders must 
be held responsible for their crimes. Today we are living with a 
juvenile justice system that was created around the time of the silent 
film. We are living with a juvenile justice system that reprimands the 
crime victim for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and then 
turns around and hugs the juvenile terrorist, whispering ever so softly 
into his ear, ``Don't worry, the State will cure you.''
  The juvenile justice system's primary goal today is to treat and 
rehabilitate the juvenile offender. Such a system can handle runaways, 
truants, and other status offenders; but it is ill-equipped to deal 
with those who commit serious and violent juvenile crimes repeatedly.
  The criminal justice system can emphasize to adult criminals that 
acts have real consequences. The purpose of the criminal justice system 
is to punish, that is, to hold defendants accountable.
  This legislation would provide financial assistance to States to help 
them reform their juvenile justice system to get the message to 
juveniles that their acts have real consequences to them as well. 
States will be eligible to receive Federal funds to help provide for 
the adult prosecution--as a matter of law or prosecutorial discretion--
of juveniles 14 or older who commit violent crimes such as murder, 
forcible rape, armed robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon or 
offenses involving controlled substances or involving the possession of 
a firearm or a destructive device.
  Mr. President, punishing dangerous juveniles as adults is an 
effective tool in fighting violent juvenile crime. For example, in 
Jacksonville, FL, State Attorney Harry Shorstein instituted a program 
to prosecute and incarcerate such offenders in 1992. Two years later, 
the number of juveniles arrested in the city dropped from 7,184 to 
5,475. While juvenile arrests increased for most of the Nation, 
Jacksonville's arrest rate actually decreased by 30 percent.
  Mr. President, States also need to create and maintain juvenile 
criminal records. Typically, State statutes seal juvenile criminal 
records and expunge those records when the juvenile reaches age 18. The 
time has come to discard the anachronistic idea that crimes committed 
by juveniles, no matter how heinous, must be kept confidential from the 
rest of society.
  Our laws continue to view juveniles through the benevolent prism of 
basically good kids gone astray. The law should really view the 
juvenile predators of today as the criminals that they are. These young 
criminals know that they can commit crime after crime because their 
juvenile records are kept hidden under a ``veil of secrecy.'' They also 
know that when they reach their 18th birthday, they can begin a second 
career as adult criminals as if they had never committed a crime in 
their young lives. The argument is that we are protecting juveniles 
from the stigma of a record, but in reality we are coddling hardened 
criminals. We must separate rhetoric from reality by lifting the ``veil 
of secrecy.''
  The law enforcement community needs to know if an individual has a 
prior juvenile criminal record in order to conduct criminal 
investigations and apprehend those responsible for crimes in their 
towns, cities, and counties.
  According to Police Chief David G. Walchak, who is also president of 
the International Association of Chiefs of Police, law enforcement is 
in desperate need of access to juvenile criminal records. The police 
chief says, ``Current juvenile records (both arrest and adjudication) 
are inconsistent across the States, and are usually unavailable to the 
various programs' staff who work with youthful offenders.'' Chief 
Walchak also notes that ``there are only 26 States that even allow law 
enforcement access to juvenile records * * * if we [law enforcement] 
don't know who the youthful offenders are, we can't appropriately 
intervene.''

[[Page S146]]

  Mr. President, it is that simple. As juvenile gangs spread from urban 
to suburban to rural areas, as they travel from State to State, the 
``veil of secrecy'' draped over their criminal histories and records 
undermines the ability of law enforcement to protect the rest of 
society.

  In order to empower local law enforcement, the proposed bill would 
provide money to States to create and maintain juvenile criminal 
records, and to share those records with other federal, State, and 
local law enforcement agencies.
  Mr. President, school officials also need access to juvenile criminal 
records to assist them in protecting the best interests and safety of 
all students. The decline in school safety across the country can be 
attributed to a significant degree to laws that put the protection of 
dangerous students ahead of protecting innocent, law-abiding students. 
While visiting with school officials in Sikeston, MO, a teacher told me 
how one of her students came to school wearing an electronic monitoring 
ankle bracelet. The student told the teacher, ``You don't know if I'm a 
murderer or a rapist and I ain't gonna tell you.'' That student was not 
only brutally honest, he was right. No one had any knowledge of what 
crime he had committed and, more importantly, they had no way of 
finding out.
  If schools knew the histories of violent juveniles, they could 
respond to any misbehavior by imposing stricter sanctions, assigning 
particular teachers, or having the student's locker near a teacher's 
doorway entrance so that the teacher can monitor his conduct during the 
changing of class periods. In short, this bill would allow school 
officials to take measures that could prevent violence against other 
children at school.
  Mr. President, for purposes of adult sentencing, adult courts need to 
know that convicted felons have a history of criminal behavior. 
According to the 1991 Survey of Inmates in State Correctional 
Facilities, nearly 40 percent of prison inmates also had prior criminal 
records as juveniles. That is approximately 4 in 10 prison inmates. The 
proposed legislation would allow adult courts to have access to 
juvenile records so that criminals could no longer masquerade as 
neophytes before the adult criminal justice system.
  The bill also allows State and local governments to use Federal funds 
to implement the Serious Habitual Offenders Comprehensive Action 
Program [SHOCAP].
  SHOCAP is a multi-agency crime analysis and case management process 
for identifying and prosecuting violent and hard-core juvenile 
offenders in a community. SHOCAP targets such serious habitual 
offenders for intensive social supervisory interventions, intensive 
accountability in school attendance and discipline, and strenuous 
investigation and prosecution when they commit a new crime.
  The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention [OJJDP] 
conducted five test pilots of SHOCAP. Oxnard, CA was one of the sites 
selected. When SHOCAP was implemented in Oxnard in 1983, officials 
found that less than 2 percent of all juveniles arrested in that 
community were responsible for over 35 percent of the felonies 
committed by juveniles. Four years later, Oxnard's juvenile violent 
crime dropped 38 percent. Illinois and Florida have also recently 
established statewide SHOCAP programs in an effort to reduce their 
juvenile crime rates. S. 10 would allow all jurisdictions to use 
Federal funds to help implement SHOCAP.
  Mr. President, reforms are also necessary at the Federal level as 
well. S. 10 would make it easier for Federal prosecutors to try 
juveniles as adults. Under the bill, U.S. attorneys would have 
discretion to decide whether to try as adults juveniles 14 years or 
older without having to go through the Attorney General's office in 
Washington.
  Federal juvenile court proceedings would be opened to the general 
public. When imposing a sentence, the district court would also be 
allowed to consider a juvenile's entire criminal record under the bill. 
In any case in which a juvenile is tried as an adult, access to the 
record of that offense would be made available to law enforcement 
authorities and others in the same manner that adult criminal records 
are publicly available.
  Mr. President, the government should also be able to mount a counter-
attack on gang violence. This legislation targets violent youth gangs, 
like the notorious Simple City Crew in the District. There would be new 
Federal penalties for offenses committed by criminal street gangs. 
Gangs are no longer concentrated in the big cities, they are now in 
rural towns. The bill would also provide $100 million to hire assistant 
U.S. attorneys to prosecute juvenile criminal street gangs.
  We as a nation and a government must challenge this culture of 
violence and restore the culture of personal responsibility and 
accountability. It is high time to consider hard-headed and sensible 
juvenile justice policies. Where possible we must give second chances. 
Where necessary we must punish severely. This is a first step to 
restore justice to a nation that has grown weary of injustice.
  In sum, this legislation would send a clear, cogent, and convincing 
message to violent juveniles: ``Serious acts have serious 
consequences.''

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