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Debate Expected Over Crime-Prevention Programs

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Washington

The scope and funding levels of youth-related crime-prevention programs is expected to be one of the more contentious issues as House and Senate conferees meet this week to smooth out the differences between their multibillion-dollar crime packages.

Education lobbyists are campaigning to preserve the $6.9 billion authorized for prevention programs in the House version of HR 3355, which passed last month. The Senate bill would authorize an estimated $1.25 billion.

Education leaders have charged that both bills are "lopsided'' in that they devote more funding to prison construction and community policing than to crime prevention, although many Republicans say they are not tough enough.

Youth-related prevention programs make up nearly one-quarter of the total $31 billion in spending authorized by the House crime bill and 5 percent of the $22.3 billion authorized in the Senate version.

"Getting schools to help teach young people peer mediation is something we should do more of, but it's not as dramatic as throwing handcuffs on someone,'' said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools. "These bills are very much driven by testosterone.''

Immigration Plan Contested

While their funding levels differ, both bills would establish grants for schools and local governments to develop crime-prevention programs in high-crime areas. The Senate bill's safe-schools program would authorize $500 million over five years for anti-crime programs in and around schools.

But Republican leaders say the prevention sections are too expensive, and they intend to push for reduced funding levels.

Though they have "no firm strategy yet,'' an aide to one key Republican said that recreation programs, such as midnight sports, could be a likely target.

However, Democrats have a majority in the conference.

"I think the prevention parts are going to be trimmed back but they will survive,'' said a Democratic aide on the House Education and Labor Committee.

Many education advocates are also lobbying against a provision in the Senate bill that would require schools to provide information about immigrant students when federal officials request it.

"The Immigration and Naturalization Service would be able to go into schools and ask teachers to tell them who is illegal,'' said Isabelle Garcia, a lobbyist for the National Education Association. "This is offensive for schools and teachers, and it's bad policy.''

Crime Bills Compared

Following are key education- and youth-related provisions of the crime bills passed by the House (HR 4092) and Senate (HR 3355, formerly S 1607). Except where noted, funding levels are total five-year authorizations for fiscal 1995 through 1999.

HOUSE

  • Authorizes a total of $6.9 billion, including grants for:

Public safety in high-crime, low-income areas, $2 billion.
Model prevention programs in 15 high-crime areas, $1.5 billion.
"Ounce of prevention'' after-school and anti-gang programs, $1.3 billion.
Drug courts/treatment of nonincarcerated persons, $1.4 billion.
Youth jobs-skills support programs in high-crime areas, $525 million.
Midnight sports, $50 million.
Community-based justice programs, $100 million.

  • Bans sales of handguns to juveniles without parental consent and prohibits gun possession, with exceptions.
  • Allows juveniles to be tried as adults for certain violent crimes.

SENATE

Crime Prevention

  • Authorizes a total of $1.25 billion, including grants for:

Safe-schools programs in high-crime areas, $500 million.
Youth drug trafficking and gang prevention, $100 million in fiscal 1994 and open-ended funding through 1999.
Drug courts/alternatives to incarceration, $300 million in fiscal 1995 through 1997 and open-ended funding through 1999.
Olympic Youth Development recreation centers, $125 million.

  • Authorizes the prosecution of violent offenders age 13 and older as adults.
  • Increases penalties for adults employing children to distribute drugs near schools and playgrounds.
  • Establishes a national criminal-background-check system for child abusers.

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