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Old 10-17-2007, 11:18 AM
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Default Legislative Action Alert


U.S. Senator Diane Feinsteinís gang bill Senate Bill 456, (the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007)
passed out of the Senate recently under nearly unanimous consent. While juvenile advocates were able to remove the adult court transfer provisions in the bill and insert more money for prevention and treatment, the bill still has an overly broad definition of gang involvement (modeled on California ís definition) and will push
youth into the federal court system.

There are now two gang bills circulating (or about to be circulating) in the House. One proposed by Rep. Schiff, HR 3547, has an overly broad definition of gang member, would sentence juveniles to LWOP, and stresses interdiction rather than prevention. Rep. Scott is introducing his gang bill, the Youth Promise Act, today, which stresses community collaboration and prevention. These bills are summarized below as well as in the sign-on letter (attached above).

Please take a moment to TAKE ACTION and ask your representative to support Rep. Scottís bill and oppose Rep. Schiffís bill:
1)check to see if there is a member from your state on either House Judiciary, the Congressional Black Caucus, or the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (see list attached);
2)call that member to urge them to oppose HR 3547 and support the Youth Promise Act and its approaches; (Talking points are attached to facilitate your call);
3)Call Erin Davies at Rep. Scottís office to tell her you support Rep. Scottís Youth Promise Act (202-225-8351);
4)and please feel free to forward to your networks.

Schiff Bill --Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression Act (H.R. 3547) also known as the Schiff Bill Adam Schiff (D-CA29)
1) Definitions of Gang and Gang Crime are too broad, vague, and could dramatically increase unwarranted federal prosecution of children and youth, especially low-income youth and youth of color. The bill defines a criminal street gang as a formal or informal group, organization, or association of five or more individuals, each of whom has committed at least one gang crime; and who collectively commit three or more gang crimes. In addition, it defines gang crime as an offense under federal law punishable by imprisonment for more than one year, or a felony offense under State law that is punishable by a term of imprisonment of five years or more within certain enumerated categories. Given the natural tendency of children and youth to associate in peer groups the breadth and vagueness of these definitions are problematic. Young people who come together for any group activity but not for the purpose of committing gang crime may be vulnerable to federal prosecution under this bill.

2) It emphasizes reactive approaches at the expense of proactive ones. The bill encourages penalties that are overly severe for youth, and emphasizes incarceration and interdiction at the expense of prevention and intervention. The authorized appropriations in this bill fail to reflect the widely recognized and accepted expertise regarding what works to reduce recidivism and deter crime. This bill simply does not reflect the importance and success of prevention and intervention programs, which are proven to be much more effective anti-gang strategies, especially for young people. Instead of focusing on meaningful prevention and intervention, drug treatment, job training and employment opportunities for youth, this bill places undue emphasis on the creation of new crimes, expanding culpability for the accused, and enhancing penalties for the convicted.

3) We would like to see juveniles excluded altogether from the enhanced penalties under this bill. Life without parole sentences, which are inappropriate for youth, and contraindicated by widely accepted scientific research in the field of adolescent brain development, are called for in H.R. 3547. We would seek to have these removed.

Scott Bill
Bobby Scott (D-VA3) is poised to introduce the Youth PROMISE Act. It is an antidote to the Schiff bill and if parts of it are accepted into any House gang legislation would greatly improve the legislation. Key provisions include:

1) The Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education Act (Youth PROMISE Act) builds upon evidence-based methods proven to reduce youth violence and delinquency and directs resources towards communities facing an increased risk of crime and gang activity in order to enable those communities to begin to address significant unmet needs.

2) Communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges will come together via a local council that includes law enforcement, community-based organizations, schools, faith organizations, health, social service, and mental health providers to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies targeted at young people and their families to make our communities safer, reduce victimization, and help at-risk young people to lead law-abiding and healthy lives, free from gang and/or other criminal involvement.

3) Scottís bill provides for thorough evaluation, including analyses of the cost-savings to society yielded by investing in prevention and intervention, as opposed to more costly and ineffective prosecution and incarceration.

4) Re-invests savings from prevention and intervention programs into the programs funded under the Youth PROMISE Act.

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