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Congress – Finally Getting Smart on Crime

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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December 2, 2009

Earlier this morning, the House Judiciary Committee, on a vote of 17-14, sent the Youth PROMISE Act onto the House of Representatives for a vote in the near future by the full chamber! It has taken several years of hard work and determined advocacy to get us to this important victory, which really marks a turning point in how Congress addresses issues of crime, youth violence and gang activity.

This legislation advances a new, forward-looking, “smart on crime” approach to confronting these issues by focusing resources on cost-effective, evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies rather than the usual mix of longer sentences and more prison beds. For example, rather than waiting until after a crime or violent act has occurred, the Youth PROMISE Act will empower communities to work in positive ways with at-risk young people. Additionally, the legislation was actually strengthened during today’s mark-up by ensuring that these prevention and intervention strategies also take girls into account, whose needs are often ignored by the justice system. The legislation’s focus on front-end prevention strategies will help to prevent both boys and girls from falling into a cycle of violence and incarceration.

As a testament to just how much support this type of approach is garnering in Congress, 232 bipartisan members are currently cosponsors of the legislation. For those Congress wonks out there, that’s over half of the entire House of Representatives (435). While it may seem like this bill is a legislative slam-dunk (it certainly should be), today’s vote, and the level of opposition from the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, shows that we cannot let up the pressure. Please continue to email and contact your members of Congress and let them know that you support policies like the Youth PROMISE Act that are smart on crime and good investments in our future.

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