A question from John Castleton, Rockville, MD:
I have heard a lot about throwing kids in jail, regardless of age and I regard most of this with a lot of skepticism. Is there enough preventative programs in this bill? What are some examples of preventative measures?
Congressman John Sununu responds:
There is no unique solution that will solve the entire problem of juvenile crime. However, a number of recent measures, in combination, will help address what I see as the root causes of crime: poverty, poor education and lack of personal values. Reforms of our public housing and welfare systems will help us to move individuals out of poverty and toward independence.
In addition, educational reforms will give more power, funding and control to parents and teachers at the local level and will help identify and assist at-risk youth at an early age. Each of these reforms is part of a broad approach that must be undertaken at the federal, state and local level if we are to be successful in addressing the issue of juvenile crime.
Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. responds:
The approach of the Republican bill was solely to reward states with funding for prosecuting thirteen and fourteen year-olds as adults and incarcerating them in adult jails. There were no prevention initiatives included in the legislation that the Republicans forced through the House.
I disagreed with this approach, and fought to include proven, community-based prevention measures in the bill. I believe if we focus entirely on the few who commit crimes, we will fail to reach the vast majority of youths who teeter on the brink of crime and could be steered in the right direction. Initiatives that have proven to work in our communities include safe-haven afterschool programs, Boys and Girls Clubs and targeted intervention programs for at-risk youth. Many communities have other initiatives that have worked, and we should encourage innovation and reward success.
What is perhaps most telling in this debate over the effectiveness of prevention andintervention is the list of those who support the prevention initiatives. Those who fight youth crime for a living, the police chiefs, prosecutors and judicial officials throughout our country, overwhelmingly endorse investing in stopping crime before it occurs, in addition to tough punishment provisions.
On to the next question...