Violent crime has reached an intolerably high level in our nation. While the population of the U.S. increased by 44 percent since 1960, violent crime has increased by more than 500 percent. Furthermore, studies confirm that criminal violence in American society is primarily committed by a small group of chronic, violent offenders. These hard-core criminals often begin committing crimes as juveniles, then go right on committing crimes throughout their adult life even when on bail, probation, or parole.
Therefore, if we are to reduce violent crime in America, we should make sure those responsible for such crimes go to jail and stay there for a long time -- and in many cases, forever. Unfortunately, our criminal justice system has become so lenient that criminals routinely serve pathetically short sentences and are allowed to walk free to abuse again. For example, according to the FBI, in 1988 the median murder sentence for prisoners released that year was 15 years. The average time served, however, was only 3.5 years.
With this in mind, we must operate under the assumption that people will change their behavior only if they believe the costs of criminal behavior are too high. Accordingly, I have cosponsored the Taking Back Our Streets Act (H.R. 3), which passed the House in 1995 as part of the "Contract with America," in the form of six different crime bills:
The Violent Criminal Incarceration Act, which would condition federal funds for prison construction upon states' adoption of truth-in-sentencing guidelines. This provision alone would go a long way toward keeping violent criminals -- who now only serve about one-third of their sentences -- in jail for at least 85 percent of their sentences. Furthermore, funding for prisons would be increased to $10.5 billion. This legislation passed the House on February 10, 1995, by a vote of 265-156.
The Effective Death Penalty Act, which would stop the endless abuse of the appeals process by which violent criminals avoid the death penalty. Otherwise known as "habeas corpus reform," this provision would place limitations on the number of death row appeals that criminals may have. This legislation passed the House on February 8, 1995, by a vote of 297-132.
The Exclusionary Rule Reform Act, which would reform our current system to allow exceptions for evidence that police believed they were obtaining legally -- that is, according to a valid warrant or following proper procedures. Under current law, judges are required to exclude evidence of a defendant's guilt if it was gathered illegally -- a legitimate concern. However, broad application of the rule has allowed criminals to get off on technicalities. This provision would make a "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule. This legislation passed the House on February 8, 1995, by a vote of 289-142.
The Victim Restitution Act, which would require criminals to financially reimburse their victims for damages caused as a result of the crime. This legislation unanimously passed the House on February 7, 1995, by a vote of 431-0.
The Local Government Law Enforcement Block Grant Act, which would give $10 billion in block grants to states for police and law enforcement-run crime prevention funds. This would allow local officials, who are intimately knowledgeable about local crime problems, to make the decisions on how to use these funds to fight crime. This legislation passed the House on February 14, 1995, by a vote of 238-192.
The Criminal Alien Deportation Act, which would allow states to immediately deport convicted illegal aliens upon their release from prison. This legislation passed the House on February 10, 1995, by a vote of 380-20.
As a Member of Congress, I am committed to strengthening the criminal justice system and making America a safer place to live. That is why my colleagues and I have introduced legislation called the "Crime Prevention and Family Protection Act." This legislation, which incorporates 5 of the 6 previously passed crime bills, reaffirms our commitment to fighting crime in hopes that the Senate will soon consider the Contract's anti-crime initiatives.
Please know that I will continue to pursue policies that provide a genuine response to the violent crime that is threatening the security of American citizens.
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