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$7.4 Billion in Crime-Bill Accord for Youth Programs

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Washington

Congressional negotiators have reached an agreement that would keep intact most of the crime-prevention and youth-related programs included in competing versions of a massive anti-crime bill.

The agreement, approved late last week by a House-Senate conference committee, would authorize approximately $7.4 billion over six years for such programs.

That figure closely resembles the spending levels for those programs in the House bill. The Senate bill would have authorized an estimated $1.25 billion.

The omnibus anti-crime bill would authorize a total of $30.2 billion to hire more police, build more prisons, and offer youths anti-gang and employment programs.

Democrats spent much of the conference beating back Republican amendments that proposed to scale back prevention programs and redirect the spending toward prisons or law enforcement. Many Republicans derided the prevention provisions as "soft'' social programs.

Observers had predicted that such exchanges would occur in discussion of the politically charged election-year bill. (See Education Week, May 11, 1994.)

Rep. Charles E. Schumer, DN.Y., the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice, seemed to echo the sentiment of many Democrats in the conference, as he cited as "key'' the balance among the bill's law-enforcement, prison, and crime-prevention programs. Many members said the bill would not pass without a sizable prevention component.

Youth-Related Measures

But the "safe schools'' grant program included in the Senate bill was eliminated because lawmakers felt that the effort, which would have been run by the Justice Department, was too similar to Education Department programs, according to Senate aides.

A one-year program was authorized earlier this year, and safe-schools provisions were added to the department's drug-free schools program in both the House and Senate versions of legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. (See story, this page.)

The crime bill also includes provisions that would make it illegal to sell handguns to minors, ban possession of handguns by minors under most circumstances, and allow violent offenders as young as 13 to be tried as adults in federal courts. An attempt to make that policy mandatory failed.

The compromise bill would also authorize the following spending over six years:

  • $895 million for a grant program to help communities develop crime-prevention plans tailored to local crime problems.
    $40 million to fund so-called "boot camps'' or other alternatives to youth correctional facilities.
  • $650 million for youth-employment efforts in low-income areas.
  • $900 million for mentoring or vocational programs run by community-based organizations.
    $1.8 billion in "local partnership funds'' to help local governments to run health and education programs in areas with high percentages of poor and unemployed people.
  • $1.3 billion for programs using peer supervision--in coordination with schools and community organizations--of drug offenders through drug courts.

The House could take up the bill as early as this week, and the Senate is expected to follow quickly behind. Democratic aides said Republicans may try to trim the prevention provisions, but do not have the votes to prevail.

Conferees said they want to send the bill to President Clinton before Congress adjourns later this month for its summer recess.

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