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HR 1279 Fact Sheet & Talking Points

OPPOSE H.R. 1279 - “The Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act”
Ineffective and Costly Federal Intrusion in State Law Enforcement 

Federalizes traditional state crimes without justification.

  • H.R. 1279 would federalize all state felonies if related to a “criminal street gang” and a host of state violent offenses (whether or not gang-related), thereby significantly expanding the current list of over 4000 federal crimes (according to a recent Federalist Society report). Traditional state jurisdiction over juvenile matters also would be undermined.
  • This approach will skew traditional federal law enforcement priorities, undercut the superior efforts of the states to deal with violent crimes and juvenile offenders, and may exceed constitutional limits on federal power.
  • Even the conservative Heritage Foundation, in recent testimony to Congress, recommended enforcing existing laws rather than passing new ones. Existing federal statutes – including RICO, Continuing Criminal Enterprise and drug trafficking statutes – have been used to prosecute and severely punish gang members, and these laws are more than adequate to prosecute any gang-related offenses that warrant federal intervention.

Promotes widely discredited approaches to gang and youth crime.

  • H.R. 1279 does nothing to promote proven effective programs for dealing with criminal street gangs and youth crimes, such as family and school-based interventions and mentoring programs. The Heritage Foundation provided recent testimony on what measures Congress should support to address the gang problem -- including fostering stable neighborhoods, providing after-school activities, and improving local economies -- and H.R. 1279 does none of these things.
  • H.R. 1279 would result in more youth being prosecuted as adults in the federal system despite research showing that youth transferred to the adult criminal justice system are more likely to re-offend than similarly situated youth who remain in the juvenile justice system.
  • As the Judicial Conference of the United States has stated, “primary responsibility for prosecuting juveniles has traditionally been reserved for the states,” and “the federal criminal justice system has little experience and few resources” for juvenile defendants.

Exacerbates racial disparities and other significant flaws in the criminal justice system.

  • H.R. 1279 expands three criminal justice policies – mandatory minimum sentences, capital punishment, and youth transfer to adult prosecution – that are discriminatory towards minority communities.
  • Attached to the new federal crimes are 24 new mandatory minimum sentences, which will transfer sentencing power from judges to prosecutors, prescribe unconscionably severe sentences, and increase unwarranted disparity, including racial disparity. Similarly, H.R. 1279 indiscriminately raises penalties for a wide variety of offenses that have nothing to do with street gangs, ranging from carjacking to regulatory violations (e.g., Clean Water Act).
  • H.R. 1279 attaches the death penalty to a variety of traditional state crimes and allows prosecutors to forum shop, expanding this error-prone and discriminatory system and flouting community standards regarding the appropriateness of the death penalty for certain crimes.
Some Organizations Opposing Provisions of H.R 1279
American Bar Association
American Civil Liberties Union
Chamber of Commerce of the United States
Children’s Defense Fund
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
National Urban League
Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights
National Council of La Raza
National Federation of Independent Business
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 


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