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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is really very straightforward. It would add $15 million to the $15 million presently designated for jurisdictions experiencing a high rate of violent and drug trafficking crime involving firearms. My amendment would offset this increase by taking $15 million from a new offender reentry program that the underlying bill appears to authorize.

Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt that reentry programs play a critical role in the criminal justice system, ensuring that offenders who are released back into our communities receive the assistance they need to make them productive members of our communities. Indeed, millions of offenders are released back into our communities each year. More often than not, these individuals are released back into society without support, increasing the likelihood of recidivism, jeopardizing the safety of our communities, and ultimately increasing the cost to society.

In fiscal year 2006, more than $13 million in Federal funds were awarded to States to assist them with their reentry programs. During that same year, more than $146 million was allocated to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to help community corrections centers across the Nation get inmates who are close to being released the assistance they needed.

This Congress, the House is set to consider H.R. 1593, the Second Chance Act of 2007, of which I am an original cosponsor. This legislation would, among other things, reauthorize State and local adult and juvenile reentry programs at a level of $65 million for fiscal year 2008 and 2009. Yet, at the same time we cannot forget the needs of our communities. More must be done to give State and local law enforcement the resources they need to combat the violent crime and gang activity that continues to plague our cities, including my city, Cincinnati, particularly violent crimes committed with firearms.

According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, in 2005, 65 percent of all murders, 42 percent of all robberies, and 21 percent of all aggravated assaults that were reported to police were committed with firearms.

Moreover, the violent crime associated with gang activity continues to leave residents in our Nation's cities and towns feeling like prisoners in their own homes. In my own city, Cincinnati, crimes committed with firearms, local gang activity, and drug trafficking continue to threaten the well-being of law-abiding citizens. In fact, this past spring the Cincinnati City Council voted to obtain the help of renowned Professor David Kennedy to assist the city in fighting violent crime.

Making additional funds available in this jurisdiction and jurisdictions across the country will empower residents of cities and towns to take back their communities and make them a safer place to live and work and raise our families. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time

Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from West Virginia is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I admit to being a bit confused by the gentleman's logic here, who I have great respect and great regard for. He comes out of an exemplary academic background, and I can't imagine how we could be thinking differently on this amendment. Nevertheless, we do, and I rise in strong opposition to the amendment as I understand it.

I am particularly pleased that the bill provides $80 million for State and local grants to address violent crime and gun crime across the Nation, the two issues that the gentleman expresses concern about. I hope he agreed with the committee when we increased funding for this purpose by $35 million over 2007. I have to oppose his amendment because of the offset of $15 million for law enforcement costs of offender reentry programs.

These are the programs that go hand in glove with our other law enforcement activities. Recidivism is a terrible problem. These programs establish partnerships with correctional institutions, with community corrections, with social services, with faith-based institutions and with community policing groups. They want to help make our communities safer.

Our Nation's prisons are bursting at the seams. In the Federal prisons alone we have an inmate population that has risen six-fold since 1980; we have 195,000 inmates in Federal prison. The recidivism rate is 40 percent, and in the States it is 67 percent. If we reduce those numbers, we are dramatically not only reducing crime in the country and reducing the recidivism rate in the process, we are doing both at one time. So these statistics being deplorable, we need more resources applied to addressing recidivism. For those reasons, I must oppose the gentleman's amendment.

In light of the fact that we have increased funding significantly for the violent gang and the gun crimes across the country by $35 million and by providing $80 million in this bill, that seems to be a healthy increase for that purpose that the gentleman expressed his concern about.

Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. MOLLOHAN. I yield to the gentleman from Ohio.

Mr. CHABOT. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I want to first of all compliment him for the fact that he also attended an institution which I think is probably one of the best colleges in the country.

Mr. MOLLOHAN. It certainly is.

Mr. CHABOT. We happened to go to the same college, by the way.

As far as the committee report, it says that the committee directs that the remaining $15 million will be available to jurisdictions experiencing a high rate of violent and drug trafficking crime involving firearms. And we certainly support that.

What we are trying to do is increase that, because we think there should be additional funding because we do believe that gang activity and violence is plaguing a number of communities, including the one that I happen to represent, the city of Cincinnati. And when we looked into the bill, when we called the committee for further clarification about what the other $15 million went toward, we were told that this provision had been inserted in previous Congresses, but that they weren't really sure what, if any, reentry program that they were referring to.

So rather than just let the money sit, I propose to give it to those jurisdictions that are falling victim to violent crime and drug traffickers, particularly those that are committed with firearms. And I don't believe that the $15 million, as I said, that is currently in the bill is sufficient. And since this money was available and wasn't designated, to our knowledge, in any particular program, we thought that it would be appropriate to increase the funding so that we could help more cities better fight against gang activity and violence, and particularly when those are involved with firearms.

Mr. MOLLOHAN. I can assure the gentleman that I am fully in support of his purpose. This is the first time that I have been introduced to his concerns specifically, and I am advised our staff haven't really talked.

I don't know if there is a way that the gentleman feels we can accommodate him.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman from West Virginia has expired.

(By unanimous consent, Mr. Mollohan was allowed to proceed for 2 additional minutes.)

Mr. CHABOT. If the gentleman would yield, I would be happy to work with the gentleman in good faith, and perhaps we could work out something that would boost up the money for our cities.

Mr. MOLLOHAN. I just can't believe that we cannot do that, if the gentleman would wish to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. CHABOT. With that understanding, we would be happy to withdraw the amendment and work with the gentleman on that issue.

Mr. MOLLOHAN. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I just wanted to say that it has been interesting to be a spectator between two William & Mary graduates. We are not allowed to make product endorsements on the floor, but it is good to see that the logic will reign, and I will be supporting the Chair's logic.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment, with the understanding we can work together.


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