Senate Committee Passes Anti-Gang Bill

We have railed several times against the "anti-gang bill", S. 1735, co-sponsored by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). (Here too.) So has the ACLU. Congressional Quarterly (subscription only) reports today it has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Durbin's and Kennedy's proposed Amendments, that would have ameliorated some of the worst aspects, have been rejected:

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation Thursday that would increase federal law enforcement’s role in cracking down on gang violence. The Committee voted 13-6 in favor of the bill (S 1735) that would make it a federal crime to participate in a “criminal street gang,” defined as three or more people who cooperate to commit two or more “gang crimes.” The bill would also authorize $650 million for gang prevention and suppression programs.

...The committee rejected 12-7 a substitute offered by Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., that would provide more money for witness protection programs, allow rural communities and smaller jurisdictions to apply for grants to combat gangs and not expand prosecution of juveniles as adults. “It’s a mistaken impression if we leave this room and say United States attorneys do not have existing laws to deal with gang crimes,” Durbin said. “What they need is our help with preventive funds.”

Also rejected were amendments offered by Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., to increase the bill’s witness protection funding from $12 million to $60 million a year and, by a vote of 13-6, Durbin’s proposal to strip a provision that would shift the burden of proof onto defendant juvenile offenders regarding their removal to the adult criminal justice system.

[Thanks to Kyle O'Dowd, NACDL Legislative Director, for letting us know.]

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