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May 11, 2005

Anti-gang bill passed by House

As was predicted, the US House today passed its anti-gang bill, HR 1279, which has a number of mandatory minimums (first discussed here).  The AP provides this interesting report on the legislative discussion, and here are some interesting snippets:

"We're talking about gangs that are across the country,'' said Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., the bill's author.  ''If they were an army from a foreign country, they would be the sixth-largest army in the world.''

Forbes' bill, approved 279-144, would expand the range of gang crimes punishable by death, establish minimum mandatory sentences, authorize the prosecution of 16- and 17-year-old gang members in federal court as adults, and extend the statute of limitations for all violent crimes from five to 15 years....

Democrats said the bill puts too much emphasis on punishment and neglects prevention. While the bill authorizes $387.5 million over the next five years to fight street crimes, Democrats said the cost of accommodating new prison inmates alone would exceed $9 billion over the next decade. ''We must give our young people a path to success, not just a path to prison,'' said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas....

Gang members would be able to avoid the toughest sentences if they cooperate fully with prosecutors. Supporters looked at the mandatory minimum sentences as the first remedy to a recent Supreme Court ruling that made sentencing guidelines advisory instead of mandatory, a decision that disturbed many Republicans.  Backers also said they were the best way to force low-level gang members to cooperate with prosecutors and turn in gang leaders.  But Democrats said such sentencing requirements would disproportionately affect minorities, remove the discretion of judges and swell prison populations without stopping crime.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., introduced an amendment that would have struck the mandatory sentencing provisions from the bill, but withdrew it in face of GOP opposition, saying she didn't want it to become a political issue. ''I know there are people who are just salivating for this amendment to remain on the floor so they can catch Democrats voting for something they will use in their campaigns,'' Waters said.

The House approved an amendment by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., that stiffens penalties for illegal immigrants, who law enforcement officials say make up a large proportion of the membership of some gangs. The provision, approved 266-159, adds five years to violent crime and drug trafficking sentences when the violator is an illegal immigrant, and 15 years if the violator has previously been deported for a criminal offense....

The bill's prospects in the Senate are uncertain.  Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have introduced an anti-gang bill that, unlike Forbes' bill, contains funding for crime prevention programs and does not include mandatory minimum sentence provisions.

UPDATE: Additional coverage of the passage of this bill in the House, with additional interesting quotes, appears in The Washington Post and The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.  Also, the Miami Herald has this strong editorial against the bill, which laments that the House is looking to "respond to the menace of immigrant gangs in the United States with headline-grabbing legislation that does little to cure the problem but looks good in a campaign ad."

May 11, 2005 at 08:10 PM | Permalink


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student ...
I am trying to get more media coverage of an anti-gang campaign at school. How can I get the communities involved? I see that people are passionate about laws being passed to punish gang members, but we need to take a stand to prevent gangs. What are your suggestions in order to get a jump start on this?


Posted by: Veroncia | Dec 5, 2005 11:38:20 PM

I am trying to find out if the Prison Inmate rules of 85% time served gone down to 65%.

Posted by: brenda | Aug 4, 2006 7:51:59 PM

Response to Veronica...Host parent nights at school. Use programs such as GREAT and GEAR UP. Schools have assembilies for students.Find a Gang Specialist, gang officer, community workers to present gang intervention-prevention. Include all media. Conduct a community assessment, brainstorm and seek solutions, Involve community members, youth, parents, city council, school employees, business people, police etc.... It's a process.

STUDENTS AGAINST VIOLENCE EVERYWHERE S.A.V.E. is a great student program that they work. www.nationalsave.org has a complete program curriculm.
Good Luck. PEACE!
Christina, WA. State

Posted by: cc | Mar 13, 2007 1:01:55 AM

Good Evening,

I amd efinietely residing in a community that needs a little more help in deterring gangs. We live in fear of the gangs and they ahve now taken over our community. it is with this in mind that i have decided to put my focus on saving the children of my community. I am trying to write my capstone paper for school while researching information that I can present to the members of my community center. My hope is to find a way to get the police and the community to join forces and implement a program that will give children options. Wish me luck. I am a parent, as well as a student pursuing my Masters in Urban Afaairs at the Joseph Murphy Institue of Worker and Labor Studies which is run through CUNY.

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