H. Rept. 105-157 - 105th Congress (1997-1998)
June 26, 1997, As Reported by the Judiciary Committee

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House Report 105-157 - EXPRESSING THE SENSE OF THE CONGRESS THAT STATES SHOULD WORK MORE AGGRESSIVELY TO ATTACK THE PROBLEM OF VIOLENT CRIMES COMMITTED BY REPEAT OFFENDERS AND CRIMINALS SERVING ABBREVIATED SENTENCES




[House Report 105-157]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]



105th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 1st Session                                                    105-157
_______________________________________________________________________


 
   EXPRESSING THE SENSE OF THE CONGRESS THAT STATES SHOULD WORK MORE 
   AGGRESSIVELY TO ATTACK THE PROBLEM OF VIOLENT CRIMES COMMITTED BY 
      REPEAT OFFENDERS AND CRIMINALS SERVING ABBREVIATED SENTENCES

                                _______
                                

   June 26, 1997.--Referred to the House calendar and ordered to be 
                                printed

_______________________________________________________________________


    Mr. McCollum, from the Committee on the Judicary, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                     [To accompany H. Con. Res. 75]

    The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the 
concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 75) expressing the sense of 
the Congress that States should work more aggressively to 
attack the problem of violent crimes committed by repeat 
offenders and criminals serving abbreviated sentences, having 
considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment 
and recommend that the concurrent resolution be agreed to.

                          purpose and summary

    H. Con. Res. 75 expresses the sense of Congress that States 
should work more aggressively to attack the problem of violent 
crimes committed by repeat offenders and criminals serving 
abbreviated sentences. The legislation commends those States 
which have made improvements in their criminal justice laws to 
ensure that criminals serve an appropriate amount of time in 
prison, and encourages the remaining States to adopt 
legislation to increase the amount of time served by violent 
offenders. The resolution further emphasizes Congress' support 
for the requirement that violent criminals should serve at 
least 85% of their sentences.

                background and need for the legislation

    Violent crime in America is unacceptably high. Too many 
Americans have become prisoners in their own homes, behind 
locks, bars and alarm systems. Even though crime rates have 
fallen over that last few years, the rate of violent crime is 
four times greater than it was forty years ago. As 
incarceration rates fell in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s, crime 
rates soared. According to the FBI, in 1960, the United States 
experienced 160 violent crimes per 100,000 population; in 1995, 
there were 685 violent crimes per 100,000 population. The 
failure to hold convicted violent or repeat criminals 
accountable for their crimes has done much to erode public 
trust in our criminal justice system. Preserving the 
fundamental safety and security of families and communities 
requires action at all levels of government--federal, state and 
local.
    Much of the problem of violent crime is a result of a 
relatively small group of chronic violent offenders who 
repeatedly cycle through our criminal justice system: they get 
arrested, sometimes convicted, occasionally sent to prison and 
then they are almost always released early after serving only a 
fraction of their sentences. Victims are frequently under the 
impression that a convicted offender will serve his or her 
sentence in full when in fact, violent criminals--those who 
murder, rape, rob and assault--serve an average of 48 percent 
of their sentences.\1\ Although violent offenders receive an 
average sentence of almost eight years imprisonment, they 
actually serve less than four years in prison. Typically, 
violent criminals are discharged from prison in two years or 
less, and 76 percent will be back on the street in four years 
or less.\2\ Many violent offenders get no prison time at all. 
On any given day, about 3 convicted offenders were on probation 
and parole for every 1 convicted offender in prison.\3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 
Violent Offenders in State Prison: Sentences and Time Served 1992, 
published July 1995.
    \2\ Ibid.
    \3\ U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 
Correctional Populations in the United States, 1994, June 1996.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The tragedy that has resulted from this failure to 
incarcerate cannot be understated. According to a 1996 report 
issued by the Council on Crime in America, co-chaired by former 
Attorney General Griffin Bell and former Drug Czar William 
Bennett:

            [M]uch of crime in America is a self-inflicted 
        wound. Each year a significant number of murders, 
        rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, and drug crimes 
        are committed by criminals whom the system has 
        repeatedly had in hand but repeatedly let go, offenders 
        who are serially placed in custody and released back to 
        the streets under-supervised, ill-supervised, or not 
        supervised at all.

    The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 38 percent 
of all murderers were on probation, parole, pretrial release, 
or in some other criminal justice status at the time of the 
murder.\4\ In 1991, forty-five percent of State prisoners were 
on probation or parole at the time they committed their latest 
crime. Together, these parole and probation violators committed 
90,639 violent crimes while ``under supervision'' in the 
community. Those crimes included 13,100 murders, 12,900 rapes, 
19,300 assaults, and 39,500 robberies.\5\ This does not even 
begin to measure the violent crimes wrought by criminals whom 
the system had in custody one or more times but failed to 
restrain.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\ U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 
Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 1992, July 1995.
    \5\ U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 
Probation and Parole Violators in State Prison 1991, August 1995, as 
cited in The Council on Crime in America, The State of Violent Crime in 
America, January 1996, p. 42.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In recent years, policy-makers at both the federal and 
State levels of government haveresponded to this public safety 
crisis by enacting tough criminal justice reforms. Among the most 
significant of these reforms has been the establishment of ``truth-in-
sentencing'' which requires convicted offenders to serve greater 
portions of their sentences. In the ``Comprehensive Crime Control Act 
of 1984'' (P.L. 98-473), Congress eliminated parole in the federal 
criminal justice system and required offenders convicted of federal 
crimes to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. In the 
``Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994'' (P.L. 103-
322), Congress encouraged States to enact their own truth-in-sentencing 
laws by offering prison construction grants to States that incarcerate 
violent offenders for greater portions of their sentences. This 
legislation was significantly improved and strengthened in the 
``Violent Criminal Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing Grants Act'' 
which passed in the FY 1996 Omnibus Appropriations bill (P.L. 104-537).
    Since the passage of this legislation, at least 25 States 
have passed truth-in-sentencing laws in order to qualify for 
funds. These 25 States should be commended for their efforts. 
The fact that so many States have enacted truth-in-sentencing 
legislation demonstrates clearly that the incentive grants have 
worked. States have responded positively to Congress' 
leadership on this issue, and every citizen has benefitted 
because more violent criminals remain behind bars--where they 
belong. The incentive grants are effective, and Congress must 
use every means possible to get this message out to those 
remaining States which have not yet passed truth-in-sentencing 
legislation. The purpose of this resolution is to re-emphasize 
Congress' support of the States which have enacted ``truth-in-
sentencing'' legislation, in addition to encouraging the 
remaining States to adopt such legislation. Members of Congress 
should take every opportunity, and use every means possible, to 
speak to this issue and encourage the States to pass truth-in-
sentencing legislation. Law-abiding citizens have the right to 
feel safe, and ensuring that violent criminals serve at least 
85% of their sentences is one, very effective, way to do it.

                                hearings

    No hearings were held on H. Con. Res. 75.

                        committee consideration

    On June 12, 1997, the Subcommittee on Crime met in open 
session and ordered reported the resolution H. Con Res. 75, 
without amendment by a voice vote, a quorum being present. On 
June 18, 1997, the Committee met in open session and ordered 
reported favorably the resolution H. Con. Res. 75 without 
amendment by voice vote, a quorum being present.

                         vote of the committee

    There were no recorded votes.

                      committee oversight findings

    In compliance with clause 2(l)(3)(A) of rule XI of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee reports 
that the findings and recommendations of the Committee, based 
on oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the 
descriptive portions of this report.

         committee on government reform and oversight findings

    No findings or recommendations of the Committee on 
Government Reform and Oversight were received as referred to in 
clause 2(l)(3)(D) of rule XI of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives.

               new budget authority and tax expenditures

    Clause 2(l)(3)(B) of House rule XI is inapplicable because 
this legislation does not provide new budgetary authority or 
increased tax expenditures.

                        committee cost estimate

    In compliance with clause 7(a) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, the Committee believes that the 
resolution H. Con. Res. 75 will have no significant impact on 
the federal budget for fiscal years 1997-2000. There will not 
be any significant costs incurred in carrying out H. Con. Res. 
75.

                      section-by-section analysis

    This bill expresses the sense of Congress that--
    (1) Congress commends Arizona, California, Connecticut, 
Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, 
Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North 
Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South 
Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington for their 
existing efforts with respect to prison time served by criminal 
offenders;
    (2) Congress encourages all remaining States to adopt as 
quickly as possible legislation to increase the time served by 
violent felons; and
    (3) with respect to Federal crimes, Congress should 
reemphasize its support for the requirement that individuals 
who commit violent crimes should serve at least 85% of their 
sentence.

                              agency views

    No agency views were received on H. Con. Res. 75.