Washington Outlook

Gore Supports Mayors Call for Drug Testing and Treatment in Prisons as Part of Crime Agenda

By Ed Somers
May 15, 2000


In a major campaign speech in Atlanta on May 2, Vice President Al Gore outlined his anti-crime and drugs agenda.

The broad policy contains a call for a "Get-Clean-to-Get-Out, Stay-Clean-to-Stay-Out Policy" related to drugs and the criminal justice system.

According to available information, Gore would create a matching grant program for states and localities to help systematically test, treat and sanction probationers, prisoners and parolees.

Gore said he would also expand the number of drug courts and fight for tougher drug penalties. Increased funding for drug courts is strongly supported by the Conference of Mayors.

In explaining his policy, Gore said, "We have to stop that revolving door, once and for all. First of all, we have to test prisoners for drugs while they are in jail - and break up the drug rings inside our prison system. Most Americans find it hard to believe that drug use continues inside prison walls, but shockingly, it does. We have to expand drug treatment within our prisons; according to one recent study, treatment is about ten times more effective in reducing serious crime than today's approaches. And we have to insist on more prison time for those who don't break the habit."

"I believe we should make prisoners a simple deal: before you get out of jail, you have to get clean. And if you want to stay out, then you'd better stay clean," Gore added.

Gore also said, "We should do even more to make sure that when criminals leave jail, they leave a life of crime behind. We should impose strict supervision of those who have just been released - and insist that they obey the law and stay off drugs. In return, we should help them make it in the workplace."

The U.S. Conference of Mayors A New Agenda for America's Cities, developed under the leadership of President Wellington E. Webb of Denver, strongly supports drug testing and treatment for prisoners.

In commenting on Gore's announcement, Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin, chair of the Conference's Criminal Justice Committee, said, "I am pleased that the Vice President shares our belief that every prisoner should be required to pass a drug test prior to release back into our communities, and continue to be tested while on probation or parole. For years, mayors have stressed the need to clean up our nation's prisons, and provide treatment to persons in the criminal justice system."

"Through such a policy, we can make our communities safer and save taxpayers' money," Griffin added.

The Conference of Mayors is currently supporting legislation introduced by Missouri Senator John Ashcroft (S 2008) which would require every person leaving federal prison to pass a drug test prior to release. The Clinton Administration has not yet expressed a position on this priority legislation.

Following are highlights of Vice President Gore's crime and drug agenda:

Guns:

  • mandatory child safety locks

  • photo license I.D., full background checks, and a gun safety test to buy new handguns

Police:

  • reach a total of at least 150,000 new police officers

  • give police new computerized crime mapping software

  • strongly support the right of off-duty police officers to carry concealed weapons

  • fight for a federal law that helps communities establish ‘gang-free zone's - with curfews on specific gang members, a ban on gang-related clothing, and the specific legal authority to break up violent teen gangs

  • tougher penalties against all sex offenders

  • raise the penalties for those who commit crimes against the elderly

  • end the practice of racial profiling in America, "because it's not only unfair, it is inconsistent with the successful approach known as community policing."

Drugs:

  • lead a national crusade to dry up drug demand, hold up drugs at the border, and break up the drug rings that are spreading poison on our streets

  • test prisoners for drugs while they are in jail, break up the drug rings inside prison system, and expand drug treatment within prisons

  • expand drug courts

  • double the number of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas

  • expand drug treatment for at-risk youth

  • support the Drug-Free Communities Program

  • make sure that all school zones are drug-free zones

Victims Rights:

  • victims should have a voice in trial and other proceedings

  • victim safety should be a factor in the sentencing and release of attackers

  • victims should be notified when an offender is released back into their community

  • victims should have a right to compensation from their attacker

  • pass a Victims' Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution

  • strengthen efforts to protect and care for the victims of domestic violence

  • make sure that all battered women have the legal protection and the support they need to be safe in their own communities

Prevention:

  • dramatically increase commitment to after school care and child care

  • build new partnerships with the nation's faith-based organizations

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