Tag: gang legislation

Senate Approves $1 Billion for "Gang Fear and Pandering Act"

Sen. Diane Feinstein and Orrin Hatch's anti-gang legislation, S. 456, more aptly called the "Gang Fear and Pandering Act" has passed the Senate at a cost of $1 billion.

Even though some of the worst provisions were stripped from the bill before passage, this bill is bad . In June, I listed some of the things wrong with it:

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Report: Locking Up Gang Members Doesn't Work

A new report by the Justice Policy Institute confirms that anti-gang legislation that advocates locking up gang members, charging them with status crimes and charging more juveniles as adults doesn't work. In fact, it adds to the gang problem.

Mass arrests, stiff prison sentences often served with other gang members and other strategies that focus on law enforcement rather than intervention actually strengthen gang ties and further marginalize angry young men, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank that advocates alternatives to incarceration.

"We're talking about 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds whose involvement in gangs is likely to be ephemeral unless they are pulled off the street and put in prison, where they will come out with much stronger gang allegiances," said Judith Greene, co-author of "Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies."

The full report is available here.

As to the current and past versions of Sen. Diane Feinstein's anti-gang bill, which I have addressed and opposed numerous times on TalkLeft, the report finds:


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Action Alert: Oppose S. 456, Feinstein's Gang Legislation Bill

The time is now to send your Senators a letter opposing Sen. Diane Feinstein's gang legislation bill, S. 456, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007. It will hurt our kids.

Primary objections are:

  • this legislation defines "gangs" and "gang crime" so broadly that it will drastically increase the number of children and youth who are inappropriately swept into the juvenile justice system -- especially poor children and children of color;
  • this legislation places an extremely heavy emphasis on incarceration and punishment, and fails to support what we know really works to reduce recidivism: prevention and intervention; and
  • this legislation unfairly and inappropriately targets undocumented individuals.

Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Elizabeth Dole are co-sponsors of the bill, that should tell you something.

Background on the bill and its predecessor is here and here.


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Opposing the 'Gangbuster Bill'

The Washington Post has an excellent editorial today opposing the Anti-Gang bill that has passed the House. A much different and less punitive version is pending in the Senate. The editorial notes that while the Administration is pushing for the House bill, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales doesn't like it:

While Mr. Gonzales's day job requires him to concentrate on clamping down on gangs through law enforcement, he acknowledges that investigations and prosecutions are only a partial answer. A comprehensive strategy, he believes, must include education, prevention and rehabilitation. "I don't want Hispanic kids to not go to school and not get an education," he said. "Sure, we may be able to prosecute them and put them in jail, but that represents a lost future as employees, as future leaders in our community. We can't afford it."

In a nutshell, here's what's wrong with the House bill:

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Feinstein-Hatch Gang Bill a Terrible Idea

Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have teamed up to sponsor a terrible bill--one that panders to irrational fear but resonates politically. It is the "Gang Prevention and Effective Deterrence Act."

The legislation seeks $450 million to aid law enforcement and prosecutors. It is rife with new categories of crimes, added punishments for having a gun or being a gang member and myriad "think twice" measures — hoping gang members will reconsider before committing a crime.

Anyone who knows gangs knows that lawmakers cannot conceive of a law that would lead a hard-core gang member to "think twice." We already have enough gang- and gun-related sentencing "enhancements" to send a 17-year-old who has never been in trouble with the law to prison for 35 years to life. And that's without his ever touching a gun or ever being an actual member of a gang. We need to overhaul these enhancements, not add to them.

Gangs are not all that mysterious. Reformers know what works with them and what doesn't. "Gang experts, intervention practitioners, social scientists, researchers and enlightened law enforcement officials all agree." What works is prevention, intervention and enforcement.

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