Crime and Punishment

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Punishment came out the overwhelming victor over prevention programs in the House debate over juvenile crime. On a 286-132 vote the House overwhelmingly passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would try juvenile crime offenders as adults. Under the bill, children between the ages of 14 and 18 would be subject to adult punishment for crimes such as rape, murder, armed robbery and drug trafficking. Although President Clinton supports imposing severe punishment on some young criminals, the White House did not back this measure because it does not include funding for crime prevention programs. While even some supporters were uncomfortable with a bill that contained no prevention or interdiction efforts, most were not willing to risk a "soft-on-crime" label. They cited statistics showing that nearly 20 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S. are committed by children under 18 years old. A coming baby-boomlet (there are currently 39 million children under 10 in the U.S., more than at any time since the 1950s) suggests that violent crime will only go up without action now. The issue now goes to the Senate, where the Judiciary Committee is preparing to work on a bill by Chairman Orrin Hatch that also envisions more adult trials of juvenile offenders.