Fighting Points in the Crime Bill
From appliedrc@igc.apc.org Thu Feb 23 17:55:04 1995
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 1995 17:32:34 -0800
From: Applied Research Center 
To: newman@garnet.berkeley.edu
Subject: Rapsheet 3

Fighting Points in the Crime Bill Francis Calpotura

On September 13, 1994, President Clinton signed into law the
Rbiggest, toughest, smartestS Crime Bill in U.S. history. The
$30.2 billion, six-year bill represents a mammoth law enforcement
reserve with which to escalate a punishment strategy aimed at poor
people, immigrants, and people of color as we enter a new century.
Clinton and Attorney General Reno have successfully loosened the
^scal belt of 17,000 police departments around the country, and
have accelerated the already frantic pace of prison construction.

Far from being pronounced terminally ill, a progressive agenda on
crime and punishment can ^nd some resuscitation. I believe that
the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 provides
us with openings to ^ght the good ^ght.  The challenge for the
Campaign and other community-based initiatives, committed to
shifting the debate and re-structuring priorities on how this
country deals with crime, is to identify ^ghting points in this
Crime Bill that will move us closer to a strategy that expands
prevention and rehabilitation, institutionalizes
community-directed priorities, builds police accountability, and
fosters development based on justice and equality.

WeUre ^ghting a 15-year trend towards stricter sentencing laws,
more prisons, more police and more border patrol. The only result
we can account for is a 300% increase in prison population (now
more than 1.2 million) and a fear of crime that is at an all-time
high. There are more Black men in prison than enrolled in college,
twenty-four Latinos behind bars for every one with a B.A. degree,
and a doubling in the number of women in prison in less than ten
years. In California, twenty-six prisons were built in the last
decade against only one new institution of higher learning, with
similar trends in other states. The Crime Bill, in the next few
years, affords community organizations with several arenas for
strategically intervening to change fundamentally the course of
crime and punishment in this country.

WhatUs in BillUs Bill?

Aside from the well-publicized provision banning 19 types of
assault weapons (while exempting 650 others) and some weak
attempts at curtailing low-level white collar crime, ClintonUs
bill contains 33 major provisions. Its primary items are as
follows:

Law Enforcement  (Total Allocation: $ 13,451,000,000)

* Puts 100,000 more police on the streets to carry out Community
Policing.  Increases the total number of law enforcement of^cers
by 20% in 5 years, while granting only up to 75% of total hiring
cost, with local jurisdictions to match the rest.

* Beefs up Border Patrol by more than 4,000 of^cers in four years.
Mandates a national Criminal Alien Tracking Center.

Prisons  (Total Allocation: $ 9,850,000,000)

* Awards grants to states for new prison construction with 50% of
total funds as incentive to each state. States must abide by
Rtruth in sentencingS provisions which require person convicted of
violent crimes serve no less than 85% of prison term. Grants up to
75% of total construction cost with states coming up with the
rest.

* Reimburses states for cost of incarcerating criminal Rillegal
aliensS.  Enhances penalties for sex offenders, with mandatory HIV
testing of some criminal defendants.

Prevention  (Total Allocation: $ 6,903,000,000)

* Allows grants to local governments for education, substance
abuse prevention, recreation and job programs to prevent crime
through the Local Partnership Act and also through the Local Crime
Prevention Block Grant Program, both requiring public hearings to
determine use of funds.

* Allocates more than $ 1.6 billion to combat violence against
women, through tougher sentencing laws, research and data
collection projects, and programs to reduce sexual assault against
women and create safe havens for victims of violence.

A provision buried inside this mammoth Crime Bill is entitled
RPolice Pattern or PracticeS. It empowers the Attorney General to
penalize police departments for engaging in a pattern or practice
of civil rights violations. The same provision also mandates the
AG to collect data on the use of excessive force by law
enforcement of^cers.

Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead

The Crime Bill grab bag has some thing in it to offend almost
everyone. Yet for community organizations committed to shifting
the debate on crime and safety to a more humane, just and
equitable framework, the Bill offers a number of ^ghting points to
engage local governments and law enforcement agencies on the local
level. For now, I will highlight a few opportunities.

Fight for Community-Directed Policing. On average, each law
enforcement agency in the country will receive close to $ 55
million in the next six years -- a windfall which local police
departments havenUt experienced before. These resources are
intended to expand and institutionalize the practice of community
policing with applicant agencies needing to show Rcommunity
participationS and involvement. The current practice, at best,
uses community organizations (and only those supportive of police)
as window dressing. Fights around standards of involvement and
participation: key ones are described in CCSPAUs Home Run Strategy
under RPromote Community-Directed PolicingS that stress prevention
and problem-solving over arrests, community oversight, and
mechanisms for police to take direction from the community.

Fight for Standards of Prevention. Both the Local Partnership Act
and the new Block Grant Programs, giving wider local government
discretion than other Crime Bill prevention programs, allow
organizations to ^ght to direct funds away from police-sponsored
programs (i.e. DARE, PAL, etc.) toward real community-run
projects. Sharpening the criteria for what constitutes prevention
is key to this endeavor. CCSPA frames a number of these standards:
a preventive measure should support families; promote
multicultural understanding; employ community residents; be
accessible to all members of the community (young and old, men and
women); and be available year-round. Both Crime Bill provisions
demand public hearings which lend themselves to fostering debate
on these standards.

Fight to Expose Pattern or Practice of Abuse. Until this Crime
Bill was passed, there was no provision to document the practice
of police violence and expose the breadth and scope of selective
enforcement. Residents in communities of color and poor
communities have known this practice all too well. From our
research, most people are afraid of ^ling complaints at the local
Civilian Review Board or Internal Affairs, lack con^dence in
successful follow-up by law enforcement agencies, or donUt know
that such a thing exists. On the Federal level, the Department of
Justice only counts whatUs reported by complainants and does not
search for patterns or trends of misconduct. What is not counted,
doesnUt exist! Community advocates can use the new pattern or
practice provision to expose selective enforcement, and ^ght for
action from the Justice Department. This can lead to numerous
strategies for civilian oversight and calls for accountability
from local to national levels.

These R^ghting pointsS are not meant to exhaust all possibilities.
What they do provide, and what organizations ^ghting for change
need to examine, are entry points in various levels of the
correctional-industrial complex where communities most affected by
the current state of affairs can engage. How to translate this
strategy to the BillUs provisions around prisons demands our
attention. The Campaign would like to hear from you about your (or
anyone elseUs) ideas on this.

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From Issue #6 of RapSheet, September 1994 Trends in Police Work,
Law Enforcement Reform, & Community Control

Prepared by the Applied Research Center for the Campaign for
Community Safety & Police Accountability
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