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Friday, September 18, 1998

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  • Fast Track Legislation

    One of the definitive political battles in President Clinton’s first term in office was his narrow victory over a united front of environmental and labor groups in passing NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement). For years now, the Clinton administration and Congressional Republicans have been revving up for its sequel — fast track legislation that would allow the President to put forward treaties that Congress could not amend.

  • Juvenile Justice Bill

    This week, the House quietly passed the unpopular Juvenile Crime Bill, under which states will try all juvenile offenders over the age of 15 as adults and will adopt a system of mandatory sentencing. The bill offers $500 million a year in grants to states that adopt these and other measures, such as the jailing of children as young as 14 with adult offenders, while making no provision for youth intervention and crime prevention. The vote took place on a day when several states were conducting primary elections, and many Democrats were absent from the House floor. Aware that the bill in its present form would never pass in the Senate, House Republicans sent it directly to conference, and avoided a debate in the Senate. Opponents of the Bill include a far-reaching coalition from children’s advocacy groups to gun control groups. They say that the legislation will do nothing to reduce juvenile crime and will expose juveniles to brutal beatings and sexual assaults in adult jails and prisons.

  • Chicago Juvenile Cases

    On August 10th, Chicago police charged two boys aged 7 and 8 with murdering 11 year-old Ryan Harris. The only evidence against them was oral statements taken by police after hours of questioning at the police station, outside the presence of parents, guardians or attorneys. In the days immediately following their arrest, pundits and politicians presumed them guilty and used their case as an example of why children should be tried in adult courts. In fact, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), on the day of the boys’ arrest, attempted an evening vote in the Senate on the Juvenile Crime Act. Just last week, charges were dropped against both boys after the evidence pointed to a sexual assault by an adult perpetrator.