Senate Approves $1 Billion for "Gang Fear and Pandering Act"

Sen. Diane Feinstein and Orrin Hatch's anti-gang legislation, S. 456, more aptly called the "Gang Fear and Pandering Act" has passed the Senate at a cost of $1 billion.

Even though some of the worst provisions were stripped from the bill before passage, this bill is bad . In June, I listed some of the things wrong with it:

  • this legislation defines "gangs" and "gang crime" so broadly that it will drastically increase the number of children and youth who are inappropriately swept into the juvenile justice system -- especially poor children and children of color;
  • this legislation places an extremely heavy emphasis on incarceration and punishment, and fails to support what we know really works to reduce recidivism: prevention and intervention; and
  • this legislation unfairly and inappropriately targets undocumented individuals.

This bill, like its predecessors, panders to irrational fear.

Gangs are not all that mysterious. Reformers know what works with them and what doesn't. "Gang experts, intervention practitioners, social scientists, researchers and enlightened law enforcement officials all agree." What works is prevention, intervention and enforcement.
You prevent kids from joining gangs by offering after-school programs, sports, mentoring and positive engagement with adults. You intervene with gang members by offering alternatives and employment to help redirect their lives. You deal with areas of high gang crime activity with real community policing.

....What's really going on here is politics. Feinstein and Hatch are promoting the image of the juvenile super-predator--using fear and hysteria to garner support for their ill-advised bill. A better name for their bill would be the "Gang Fear and Pandering Act". It is one that will neither prevent nor deter gang-related crime.

It's time to stop funding wasteful law enforcement initiatives and listen to those who know what works--and it's not the politicians.

Last week, the Heritage Foundation wrote this critical review of the bill, mostly based upon its over-federalization of local crime.

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  • Display: Sort:
    What's a gang? (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Sat Sep 22, 2007 at 07:56:53 AM EST
    From the bill....

    `(1) CRIMINAL STREET GANG- The term `criminal street gang' means a formal or informal group, organization, or association of 5 or more individuals--

    `(A) each of whom has committed at least 1 gang crime; and

    `(B) who collectively commit 3 or more gang crimes (not less than 1 of which is a serious violent felony), in separate criminal episodes (not less than 1 of which occurs after the date of enactment of the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007, and the last of which occurs not later than 5 years after the commission of a prior gang crime (excluding any time of imprisonment for that individual)).

    `(2) GANG CRIME- The term `gang crime' means an offense under Federal law punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year, or a felony offense under State law that is punishable by a term of imprisonment of 5 years or more in any of the following categories:

    `(A) A crime that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or is burglary, arson, kidnapping, or extortion.

    `(B) A crime involving obstruction of justice, or tampering with or retaliating against a witness, victim, or informant.

    `(C) A crime involving the manufacturing, importing, distributing, possessing with intent to distribute, or otherwise trafficking in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)).

    The definition could be applied to the criminal gang we call government.  

    Feinstein the war profiteer... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Sat Sep 22, 2007 at 11:28:17 AM EST
    ...has no business even being in the Senate.  Good to know my worthless Democratic Senators are keeping up their worthless act.

    Gangs are terrorizing people of color (none / 0) (#3)
    by cmpnwtr on Sat Sep 22, 2007 at 11:45:10 AM EST
    Even an allegedly civilized city like Portland, Oregon has whole neighborhoods being terrorized by criminal gangs. Mostly the victims are people of color. They want more police protection and street presence but are being threatened and intimidated when they ask for help. Juveniles and young adults packing firearms are holding everyone hostage. Senior citizens in particular are captives in their own homes. The ethnic neighborhoods especially are demanding that something be done, at the state and federal level to bring safety to their neighborhoods. I don't see that the white liberal legal community has much safety to offer with these platitudes. In my view the greatest real terrorist threat we have in our country are not Muslims or Arabs but organized criminal activity in our neighborhoods and on our streets.

    I lived in a Portland neighborhood (none / 0) (#4)
    by JSN on Sat Sep 22, 2007 at 12:31:52 PM EST
    like that about ten years ago and I am very sorry to hear that the situation has not improved.

    The neighborhood I lived in was on Klillingsworth and it was not as bad as what you have described because of massive police presence and an organized effort on the part of the neighborhood to fight back. I was only there for four months so I was there long enough to get a taste of the situation but not long enough to really understand the history of the problem or what worked. However it was apparent the police were stretched pretty thin.


    The person early in this thread who said the description of a gang sounds like our government is right.

    And gangs appear where there is a vacuum of real government. When the government abandons people, lets the infrastructure fall apart, doesn't provide for the welfare of its people, gangs arise. Take a look at Iraq. Gangs rule because we went in and destroyed the government and the infrastructure.

    Better to call the bill "The Government Failed Its People Again Bill."

    I am proud that back in the late 70s I voted for Jello Biafra over Feinstein when she ran for mayor of San Francisco.

    i hate feinstein (none / 0) (#6)
    by skippybkroo on Sat Sep 22, 2007 at 10:09:02 PM EST
    i've never voted for her.  i hate her so much i constantly vote for the republican who runs against her (it's usually mike curb, who stresses prevention and therapy over incarceration for drug offenders).