U.S. Rep. Robert Scott, D-Virginia, spent Wednesday with U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., touring Hartford youth service organizations and talking to community leaders about his Youth Promise Act. The legislation, if approved, would create and fund existing local youth violence prevention programs.
At a Weaver High School forum Wednesday afternoon, Scott said the bill asks local communities to come together and develop a comprehensive plan to implement evidence-based violence prevention and intervention strategies, which the federal government would then fund on a priority basis.
He said the bill is still in committee, but he’s hopeful it will come to the floor for a vote because it’s good legislation in contrast to the Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression Act, which creates stiffer incarceration penalties for individuals affiliated with gangs and charged with violent crimes.
This is where the politics come into play. Scott said crime is an emotional issue and pollsters often tell politicians things like a three-strikes-and-your-out law will play well with the voters. He said proposals like that just sound good, but they do nothing to reduce crime.
Over the years, “Tough on crime incentives have increased the crime rate,” Scott insisted. These policies have also increased the incarceration rate in the United States, he said pointing to a slide that showed that 700 out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. is incarcerated.
He said it’s bills like the Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Act that have fostered the “cradle to prison pipeline.” He said his bill would create a “cradle to college pipeline,” by actually reducing crime rates through prevention programs.
The specific prevention programs would be up to the community to design, he said. He said the bill is intentionally vague because what works in Detroit, Michigan may not work in places like Hartford.
When it came to a question and answer session, Warren Hardy, who had been sitting in the audience listening to the Congressmen speak about the bill wanted to know why it hasn’t passed yet, since it sounds like a “common sense” approach. Scott said it’s because politicians in Washington “believe spending money on this program will not help them get elected.”
Click here for more background on Scott’s bill.