Statement on Proposed Anticrime Legislation

May 26, 1982

Last fall, I spoke to the Nation's chiefs of police about crime and what the Federal Government can do to help them fight it. Today, I am happy to report that Senator Strom Thurmond, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Joseph Biden, and others have introduced a comprehensive, bipartisan package of anticrime proposals. I urge the Congress to give it prompt and favorable consideration.

We all know that the Federal Government cannot, by itself, end violent, organized or drug-related crime. Our first line of defense against the criminal predators in our midst will continue to be the State and local law enforcement officers who risk their lives each day in communities across the Nation.

The primary responsibility for prosecuting and punishing criminals lies with the States, whose courts handle 97 percent of all criminal cases. However, the Federal Government can set an example for the States by establishing a modern, effective criminal justice system, including laws that will correct the imbalance that has developed between the forces of crime and their victims.

This legislation contains several statutory reforms that are long overdue. It includes reform of our bail laws so that a judge, after a hearing with full due process protections, can prevent a dangerous defendant from returning to the streets to prey once again on innocent citizens. It would permit a judge to set reasonable conditions for pretrial release and to lock up any defendant who is rearrested while out on bail.

The legislation also provides for comprehensive sentencing reform, replacing our unpredictable and discredited parole system with fixed sentences. A judge would be required to sentence an offender within specific guidelines, or explain in writing his failure to do so. Moreover, in contrast to the current situation, once a sentence is given, it would actually be served.

Penalties for those trafficking in dangerous drugs are also strengthened. All property used in drug trafficking or racketeering activities, along with all proceeds received from such illicit enterprises, would be subject to forfeiture to the Federal Government upon the criminal convictions of the ringleaders. Drug trafficking is a $79 billion a year industry in this country, and the penalties now on the books are viewed by drug dealers as an insignificant cost of doing business. The forfeiture provisions and increased fines provided by this bill are essential if we are to take the profit out of these destructive activities.

I am particularly pleased to note that this legislation would help the forgotten people in the criminal justice system -- the victims and witnesses whose assistance is vital to every criminal prosecution. This bill provides for the use of criminal sanctions and civil injunctions to protect victims and witnesses from harassment and retaliation. I hope that this will be only the first in a series of measures to protect the victims rather than the perpetrators of crime. The Task Force on Victims of Crime, which I recently established, will report to me later this year with recommendations in this crucial field.

Again, I extend my appreciation to the bipartisan Senate sponsors of this major crime-fighting initiative and urge its passage by the Congress.