Liberals strike out at Clinton

PRESIDENT Bill Clinton struck political gold last week with his call for fierce new anti- crime measures, writes David Usborne. But his State of the Union endorsement of 'three strikes and you're out' - meaning mandatory life imprisonment for third-time offenders - has left many uneasy.

Prominent legal and police figures have derided the proposal as ineffective and political demagoguery.

The Attorney-General, Janet Reno, has voiced fears about such a blanket response to frequent offenders, and in Congress, some black Democrats have tentatively raised civil rights concerns.

Several versions of the 'three strikes' provision are under consideration but, in essence, anyone found guilty of a committing a violent, federal offence, who has been convicted of two previous crimes, not necessarily violent in nature, would be incarcerated for good.

By embracing such a proposal, Mr Clinton deliberately identified himself with the hard-line conservative school on combating crime.

He is not only following the popular trend - crime is overtaking the economy as the main object of anxiety among Americans - but is also stealing some thunder from the Republicans.

That the response from liberals within the President's own party has been so muted is testament to the strength of public support. Momentum behind the 'three strikes' provision seems unstoppable, and no fewer than 30 states are considering introducing such legislation.

It did not go unnoticed, however, that while both sides of the chamber gave a standing ovation to the proposal, members of the congressional black caucus remained seated. Before his speech, caucus members wrote to the President asking him to 'blend the need for certain and severe punishment for today's most serious offenders with the need for compassion and community-building'.

The black New York Democrat Charles Rangel fears that 'small-time punks, mixed-up kids' could be ensnared. And similar worries have been raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is leading opposition to the provision.

Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation dismisses the measures as 'a vote-getting, headline-getting policy'. 'This provision, instead of targeting rapists, armed robbers or serial killers, will send to prison for life the punk who has a fight outside a bar after his team loses the Super Bowl, the drug-addict burglar and a host of penny-ante offenders.'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible