Two Parties on Crime

Republican Party Platform

Justice And Safety

Most Americans over the age of fifty remember a time when streets and schoolyards were safe, doors unlocked, windows unbarred.  The elderly did not live in fear and the young did not die in gunfire.  That world is gone, swept away in the social upheaval provoked by the welfare, drug, and crime policies of the 1960s and later.

 We cannot go back to that time of innocence, but we can go forward, step by difficult step, to recreate respect for law ó and law that is worthy of respect. Most of that effort must come on the state and local levels, which have the primary responsibility for law enforcement.  While we support community policing and other proven initiatives against crime, we strongly oppose any erosion of that responsibility by the federal government.  Our Republican governors, legislators, and local leaders have taken a zero tolerance approach to crime that has led to the lowest crime and murder rates in a generation. 

 At the same time, we recognize the crucial leadership role the president and the Congress should play in restoring public safety. The congressional half of that team, in cooperation with governors and local officials who are the front line against crime, has been hard at work.  Within proper federal jurisdiction, the Republican Congress has enacted legislation for an effective deterrent death penalty, restitution to victims, removal of criminal aliens, and vigilance against terrorism.  They stopped federal judges from releasing criminals because of prison overcrowding, made it harder to file lawsuits about prison conditions, and, with a truth-in-sentencing law, pushed states to make sure violent felons actually do time. They have also provided billions of dollars, in the form of block grants, for law enforcement agencies to hire police and acquire new equipment and technology.

The other part of the team ó a president engaged in the fight against crime ó has been ineffective for the last eight years.  To the contrary, sixteen hard-core terrorists were granted clemency, sending the wrong signal to others who would use terror against the American people.  The administration started out by slashing the nationís funding for drug interdiction and overseas operations against the narcotics cartel.  It finishes by presiding over the near collapse of drug policy.  The only bright spot has been the determination of the Republican Congress.  Its Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act of 1998 has just begun to restore the nationís ability to strike at the source of illegal drugs.  Now the Congress is taking the lead to assist Colombia against the narco-insurgents who control large parts of that country, a stoneís throw from the Panama Canal.

 A Republican president will advance an agenda to restore the publicís safety: 

  • No-frills prisons, with productive work requirements, that make the threat of jail a powerful deterrent to crime.

  • Increased penalties and resources to combat the dramatic rise in production and use of methamphetamine and new drugs such as ecstasy.

  • An effective program of rehabilitation, where appropriate.

  • Support of community-based diversion programs for first time, non-violent offenders.

  • Reforming the Supreme Courtís invented Exclusionary Rule, which has allowed countless criminals to get off on technicalities.

A constitutional amendment to protect victimsí rights at every stage of the criminal justice system.

Reservation of two seats on the U.S. Sentencing Commission for victims of violent crimes.

 We will reopen Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House as a symbolic expression of our confidence in the restoration of the rule of law.

Crimes against women and children demand an emphatic response.  That is why the Republican Congress enacted Meganís Law, requiring local notification when sex offenders are released, and why we advocate special penalties against thugs who, in assaults against pregnant women, harm them or their unborn children. Federal obscenity and child pornography laws, especially crimes involving the Internet, must be vigorously enforced ó in contrast to the current administrationís failure in this area.  We urge States to follow the lead of congressional Republicans by making admissible in court the prior similar criminal acts of defendants in sexual assault cases.

Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families.  We support legislation prohibiting gambling over the Internet or in student athletics by student athletes who are participating in competitive sports.

On both the federal and state levels, juvenile crime demands special attention, as the age of young offenders has fallen and their brutality has increased.  We renew our call for a complete overhaul of the juvenile justice system that will punish juvenile offenders, open criminal proceedings to victims and the public, make conviction records more available, and enforce accountability for offenders, parents, and judges. 

 With regard to school safety, we encourage local school systems to develop a single system of discipline for all students who commit offenses involving drugs or violence in school, not the federally imposed dual system which leaves todayís teachers and students at risk from the behavior of others. 

Any juvenile who commits any crime while carrying a gun should automatically be detained, not released to someoneís custody.  We urge localities to consider zero-tolerance for juvenile drinking and driving and early intervention to keep delinquency from escalating to crime.  While recognizing the important role of both parents to the well-being of their children, we must acknowledge the critical need for positive role models to put a generation of fatherless boys on the right road to manhood.  We affirm the right of public schools, courthouses, and other public buildings to post copies of the Ten Commandments.

Finally, continued assistance to state and local law enforcement is critical.  Through research, grants, and joint task forces, the federal government should encourage smarter, more effective anti-crime efforts.  In particular, we advocate assistance to police for their personal protection, continuing education and training, and family care.

Democratic Party Platform


Democrats believe government's most basic duty is to establish law, order, and freedom and keep citizens safe from crime. When crime is rampant, families are forced off the streets and behind closed doors. When children are ducking for cover, they have a hard time reaching for their dreams. When people are afraid to walk in their own neighborhood, communities are robbed of the basic sense of decency and togetherness. When an overburdened justice system lets thugs off easy, good parents have a harder time teaching their children right from wrong.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore took office determined to turn the tide in the battle against crime, drugs, and disorder in our communities. They put in place a tougher more comprehensive strategy than anything tried before, a strategy to fight crime on every single front: more police on the streets to thicken the thin blue line between order and disorder, tougher punishments - including the death penalty - for those that dare to terrorize the innocent, and smarter prevention to stop crime before it even starts.

They stood up to the gun lobby, to pass the Brady Bill and ban deadly assault weapons - and stopped nearly half a million felons, fugitives, and stalkers from buying guns. They fought for and won the biggest anti-drug budgets in history, every single year. They funded new prison cells, and expanded the death penalty for cop killers and terrorists.

Here are the results of that strategy: serious crime is down seven years in a row, to its lowest level in a quarter-century. Violent crime is down by 24 percent. The murder rate is down to levels unseen since the mid-1960's. The number of juveniles committing homicides with guns is down by nearly 60 percent.

But we have just begun to fight the forces of lawlessness and violence. We cannot go back to the finger-pointing and failed strategies that led to that steep rise in crime in the Bush-Quayle years. We can't surrender to the right-wing Republicans who threatened funding for new police, who tried to gut crime prevention, and who would invite the NRA into the Oval Office. Nor will we go back to the old approach which was tough on the causes of crime, but not tough enough on crime itself.

With Al Gore as President, America won't go back. We will move forward. We will fight to increase the number of community police on our streets. We will fight to give police the high-tech tools and the training they need to keep our streets safe and our families secure. We will toughen the laws against serious and violent crime to restore the sense of order that says to children as well as to criminals: don't even think about committing a crime here. We will reform a justice system that spills half a million prisoners back onto our streets each year - many of them addicted to drugs, unrehabilitated, and just waiting to commit another crime. We will make schools safe havens for students to learn and teachers to teach. We believe that in death penalty cases, DNA testing should be used in all appropriate circumstances, and defendants should have effective assistance of counsel. In all death row cases, we encourage thorough post-conviction reviews. We will put the rights of victims and families first again. And we will push for more crime prevention, to stop the next generation of crime before it's too late.

Victims' Rights. We need a criminal justice system that both upholds our Constitution and reflects our values. Too often, we bend over backward to protect the right of criminals, but pay no attention to those who are hurt the most. Al Gore believes in a Victims' Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution - one that is consistent with fundamental Constitutional protections. Victims must have a voice in trial and other proceedings, their safety must be a factor in the sentencing and release of their attackers, they must be notified when an offender is released back into their community, they must have a right to compensation from their attacker. Our justice system should place victims and their families in their rightful place.

Ending the Revolving Door. We have to test prisoners for drugs while they are in jail, treat them for addictions, and break up the drug rings inside our prison system. Drug and alcohol abuse are implicated in the crimes of 80 percent of the criminals behind bars. Al Gore believes we should make prisoners a simple deal: get clean to get out, stay clean to stay out. And this deal should be non-negotiable.

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 on parole - and insist that they obey the law and stay off drugs. In return, we should help them make it in the workplace. Al Gore believes that ending the revolving door, in combination with more determined efforts at prevention, will both combat crime and ultimately reduce rates of incarceration that are so tragically high in many communities.

Fighting the Scourge of Drugs and Gangs. We should send a strong message to every American child: drugs are wrong, and drugs can kill you. We need to dry up drug demand, hold up drugs at the border, and break up the drug rings that are spreading poison on our streets. We should open more drug courts, to speed justice for drug-related crimes; double the number of drug hot-spots where we aggressively target our enforcement efforts; expand drug treatment for at-risk youth; and make sure that all of our school zones are drug-free zones - by stiffening the penalties to those who would use children to peddle drugs, and those who would sell drugs anywhere near our schools. We know that to dry up drug demand, we must provide drug treatment upon demand. To empower communities protect themselves from organized criminal conduct, the Democrats support giving communities relief against gang related crimes. We should be tough on drugs no matter which form they take and should not discriminate in sentencing.

Strong and Sensible Gun Laws. A shocking level of gun violence on our streets and in our schools has shown America the need to keep guns away from those who shouldn't have them - in ways that respect the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and legitimate gun owners. The Columbine tragedy struck America's heart, but in its wake Republicans have done nothing to keep guns away from those who should not have them.

Democrats believe that we should fight gun crime on all fronts - with stronger laws and stronger enforcement. That's why Democrats fought and passed the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban. We increased federal, state, and local gun crime prosecution by 22 percent since 1992. Now gun crime is down by 35 percent.

Now we must do even more. We need mandatory child safety locks, to protect our children. We should require a photo license I.D., a full background check, and a gun safety test to buy a new handgun in America. We support more federal gun prosecutors, ATF agents and inspectors, and giving states and communities another 10,000 prosecutors to fight gun crime.

Ending Racial Profiling. Good policing demands mutual trust and respect between the community and the police. We shouldn't let the acts of a few rogue officers undermine that trust or the reputation of the outstanding work of the vast majority of our dedicated men and women in blue. That is why we need to end the unjust practice of racial profiling in America - because it's not only unfair, it is inconsistent with America's community policing success, it is a violation of the basic American principle of innocent until proven guilty, it views Americans as members of groups instead of as individuals, and it is just plain shoddy policing. We believe that all law enforcement agencies in America should adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward racial profiling.

Hate Crimes. The very purpose of hate crimes is to dehumanize and stigmatize - not only to wound the victim, but also to distort the American conscience. Every crime is a danger to Americans' lives and liberty. Hate crimes are more than assaults on people, they are assaults on the very idea of America. They should be punished with extra force. Protections should include hate violence based on gender, disability or sexual orientation. And the Republican Congress should stop standing in the way of this pro-civil rights, anti-crime legislation.

Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Citizens. Our most vulnerable deserve special protections. We need tougher penalties against all sex offenders. We should raise the penalties for those who commit crimes against the elderly. We should give federal prosecutors new tools to fight fraud and abuse. We should move aggressively to shut down fraudulent telemarketers who target the elderly. We believe that we must overcome constitutional objections and reenact a strong new law to combat violence against women. And if you commit any violent crime in front of a child, you should pay an even higher price for it: more time in jail.

Ending Domestic Violence. Violence in the home is an often silent terror in the lives of millions. We have to make sure that all battered women have the legal protection and the support they need to be safe in their own communities, and to keep their attackers away. By stopping domestic violence, we can also break the generational cycle of violence. We know that when children grow up in abusive families, they are more likely to become abusers themselves.

Stopping Crime Before it Starts. Democrats also know that all Americans are better off if we stop crime before it claims new victims, rather than focusing single-mindedly on pursuing perpetrators after the harm is done. That is why we are firmly committed to sound and proven crime-prevention strategies that are good for all Americans. Solid investments in children and youth, in job creation, and in skills development are powerful antidotes to crime.

Judges and the Supreme Court. We will fight to fill the vacancies on the federal bench to make sure we have enough judges to promptly decide all cases and to end Republican delays in the Senate that have kept qualified nominees, especially women and minorities, waiting literally for years for a Senate vote. Democrats oppose efforts to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction to decide critical issues affecting workers, immigrants, veterans and others of access to justice. And, unlike Republicans, Al Gore will appoint justices to the Supreme Court who have a demonstrated concern for and commitment to the individual rights protected by our Constitution, including the right to privacy.