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John Kerry on Crime

Jr Senator (MA), Democratic nominee for President


Opposes death penalty except for post 9-11 terrorists

AD ANNOUNCER: John Kerry has a little problem making up his mind. Okay, a big problem. In 1996 he opposed the death penalty for terrorists. Now he claims to support it. Sometimes he’s for welfare reform, sometimes against it. For a 50-cent gas tax hike, then maybe not. Kerry voted for higher taxes 350 times, but now says he’d cut taxes. John Kerry-blowing in the wind.

ANALYSIS: A Club for Growth ad accurately cites that Kerry once opposed the death penalty for terrorists and now supports it. During a 1996 Senate campaign debate, Kerry said anti-death penalty countries wouldn’t allow the US to extradite suspected terrorists: “the death penalty would amount to a terrorist protection policy. My policy would put them in jail.” In 2002 he said, “I support killing people who declare war on our country, just as I was prepared to kill people personally & collectively in Vietnam.” Kerry still opposes the death penalty in other cases. His explanation is that he responded to changed facts [of 9-11]

Source: Ad-Watch analysis by Fact Check.org , Jul 29, 2004

States should not engage in killing-too many mistakes

Q: You are against capital punishment, except in the case of terrorism.

KERRY: Correct.

Q: So a person who kills a 5-year-old should live?

KERRY: My instinct is to want to strangle that person with my own hands. I understand the instincts, I really do. I prosecuted people. I know what the feeling of the families is and everybody else. But we have 111 people who have been now released from death row -- death row, let alone the rest of the prison system -- because of DNA evidence that showed they didn’t commit the crime of which they were convicted. Our system has made mistakes, and it’s been applied in a way that I think is wrong. Secondly, most of the other nations in the world, have adopted that idea, that the state should not engage in killing, because they have very bad memories of what happens when the state engages in killing.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC , Feb 26, 2004

Moratorium on federal executions-only exception is terrorism

Q: Do you support the death penalty?

A: I oppose the death penalty other than in cases of real international and domestic terrorism. We know we have put innocent people to death; 111 innocent people have already been released from death row. As president, I’ll enforce the law but I’ll also have a national moratorium on federal executions until we use DNA evidence to make sure those on death row are guilty.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “Death Penalty” , Jan 25, 2004

Death penalty for Osama bin Laden

“No, we can’t beat Bush by being Bush-lite,” Kerry said, using a favorite phrase of Dean’s. “But we also can’t beat George Bush by being light on national security, light on fairness for middle-class Americans, and light on the values that make us Democrats.” Speaking to reporters after his speech, Kerry said of Dean’s bin Laden remark: “The question asked [to Dean] was, do you believe Osama bin Laden should be tried in the United States and given the death penalty? The answer to both questions is a simple yes. Yes and Yes.“ A Dean aide cited another recent interview in which Dean said: ”As a president, I would have to defend the process of the rule of law. But as an American, I want to make sure he gets the death penalty he deserves.“ Dean recently issued a statement clarifying his position on bin Laden, after a newspaper account suggested he thought the Al Qaeda leader could be innocent. All he meant, Dean said, was that everyone, including terrorists, deserves a fair trial.
Source: Patrick Healy & Anne Kornblut, Boston Globe, p. A10 , Dec 28, 2003

Bush wants to eliminate federal assistance to local police

I voted for the USA Patriot Act in the Senate right after 9/11 to advance our security at home but I am concerned that John Ashcroft’s Justice Department is abusing its powers, especially in targeting immigrants for scrutiny and detention. I think the Bush administration is relying far too much on extraordinary police powers and not enough on regular policing in its homeland security efforts, a result of its ideologically driven obsession with eliminating federal assistance to local law enforcement.
Source: A Call to Service, by John Kerry, p.177 , Oct 1, 2003

Transnational crime is a national security threat

Ten years ago, when I talked to other senators about transnational crime as a national security threat, the typical response was uncomprehending shoulder shrugs. Beginning in 1987, I explored the nature of the threat in public. I described how the world’s criminals had formed alliances with key officials in Central America, in the Andean countries, and in Russia and west Africa.

Over time, we noted the declining importance of ideology and the growing importance of mafias. We realized that cross-border international drug traffickers and money launderers, terrorists, and smugglers had become a security threat for the United States--and indeed, for the world.

Crime has changed. In strategy, sophistication, and reach, the criminal organizations of the late 20th century function like transnational corporations and make the gangs of the past look like mom-and-pop operations.

Source: The New War, by John Kerry, p. 18-19 , Jun 1, 1998

Organized transnational crime threatens America

We have seen a budding democracy in St. Petersburg [Russia] is already blighted by crime. By its very extent and nature, organized criminal activity poses a threat to democracies at every stage of development, including those that are advanced and well rooted like Colombia's.

Or ours. America's complicity as consumers does nothing for the moral health of our republic. It weakens our immunity to corruption, as innumerable police bribery cases have painfully demonstrated. And having pointed out that Colombia is on the State Department's list of top 20 money-laundering countries, I would be unfair not to mention that the US also belongs to that elite club.

Organized transnational crime threatens America's interests, well-being, and national security both from within and without. It can be an agent of disturbance on the international scene--by thwarting Russia's democracy or upsetting China's stability.

Source: The New War, by John Kerry, p. 85-86 , Jun 1, 1998

A state doesn’t honor life by sanctioning killing

I know something about killing. I don’t like killing. And I don’t think a state honors life by turning around and sanctioning killing. Now, that’s just a personal belief that I have.
Source: KERRY/WELD: CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS, CNN.com , Sep 17, 1996

Voted YES on reinstating $1.15 billion funding for the COPS Program.

Amendment would increase funding for the COPS Program to $1.15 billion for FY 2008 to provide state and local law enforcement with critical resources. The funding is offset by an unallocated reduction to non-defense discretionary spending.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This amendment reinstates the COPS Program. I remind everyone, when the COPS Program was functioning, violent crime in America reduced 8.5% a year for 7 years in a row. Throughout the 1990s, we funded the COPS Program at roughly $1.2 billion, and it drove down crime. Now crime is rising again. The COPS Program in the crime bill worked, and the Government Accounting Office found a statistical link between the COPS grants and a reduction in crime. The Brookings Institution reported the COPS Program is one of the most cost-effective programs we have ever had in this country. Local officials urgently need this support.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

The COPS Program has some history. It was started by President Clinton. He asked for 100,000 police officers. He said that when we got to 100,000, the program would stop. We got to 110,000 police officers and the program continues on and on and on.

This program should have ended 5 years ago or 6 years ago, but it continues. It is similar to so many Federal programs that get constituencies that go on well past what their original purpose was. It may be well intentioned, but we cannot afford it and we shouldn't continue it. It was never thought it would be continued this long.

Reference: Biden Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.529 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-110 on Mar 23, 2007

Voted YES on $1.15 billion per year to continue the COPS program.

Vote on an amendment to authorize $1.15 billion per year from 2000 through 2005 to continue and expand the Community Oriented Policing Services program. $600 million of the annual funding is marked for hiring additional officers [up to 50,000]
Reference: Bill S.254 ; vote number 1999-139 on May 20, 1999

Voted NO on limiting death penalty appeals.

Vote to table, or kill, a motion to send the bill back to the joint House-Senate conference committee with instructions to delete the provisions in the bill that would make it harder for prisoners given the death penalty in state courts to appeal.
Reference: Bill S.735 ; vote number 1996-66 on Apr 17, 1996

Voted NO on limiting product liability punitive damage awards.

Approval of a limit on punitive damages in product liability cases.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)59; N)40; NV)1
Reference: Conference Report on H.R. 956; Bill H. R. 956 ; vote number 1996-46 on Mar 21, 1996

Voted YES on restricting class-action lawsuits.

Restriction of class-action security lawsuits.
Status: Veto Overridden Y)68; N)30; P)1
Reference: H.R. 1058 passage over veto; Bill H.R. 1058 ; vote number 1995-612 on Dec 22, 1995

Voted YES on repealing federal speed limits.

Repeal federal speeding limits.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)64; N)36
Reference: Motion to table Lautenberg Amdt #1428; Bill S. 440 ; vote number 1995-270 on Jun 20, 1995

Voted NO on mandatory prison terms for crimes involving firearms.

Vote on the motion to instruct conferees on the bill to insist that the conference report include Mandatory prison terms for the use, possession, or carrying of a firearm or destructive device during a state crime of violence or drug trafficking
Reference: Bill HR.3355 ; vote number 1994-126 on May 19, 1994

Voted NO on rejecting racial statistics in death penalty appeals.

Vote to express that the Omnibus Crime bill [H.R. 3355] should reject the Racial Justice Act provisions, which would enable prisoners appealing death penalty sentences to argue racial discrimination using sentencing statistics as part of their appeal.
Reference: Bill S 1935 ; vote number 1994-106 on May 11, 1994

Rated 63% by CURE, indicating mixed votes on rehabilitation.

Kerry scores 63% by CURE on rehabilitation issues

CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants) is a membership organization of families of prisoners, prisoners, former prisoners and other concerned citizens. CURE's two goals are

  1. to use prisons only for those who have to be in them; and
  2. for those who have to be in them, to provide them all the rehabilitative opportunities they need to turn their lives around.
The ratings indicate the legislator’s percentage score on CURE’s preferred votes.
Source: CURE website 00n-CURE on Dec 31, 2000

More funding and stricter sentencing for hate crimes.

Kerry co-sponsored the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act:

Title: To provide Federal assistance to States and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes.

Summary: Provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any violent crime that is motivated by prejudice based on the race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of the victim or is a violation of hate crime laws.

  1. Award grants to assist State and local law enforcement officials with extraordinary expenses for interstate hate crimes.

  2. Award grants to State and local programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

  3. Prohibit specified offenses involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

  4. Increase criminal sentencing for adult recruitment of juveniles to commit hate crimes.

  5. Collect and publish data about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on gender.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR1343 on Apr 3, 2001

Require DNA testing for all federal executions.

Kerry co-sponsored the Innocence Protection Act:

Title: To reduce the risk that innocent persons may be executed.

    Summary: Authorizes a person convicted of a Federal crime to apply for DNA testing to support a claim that the person did not commit:

  1. the Federal crime of which the person was convicted; or

  2. any other offense that a sentencing authority may have relied upon when it sentenced the person with respect to such crime.

  3. Prohibits a State from denying an application for DNA testing made by a prisoner in State custody who is under sentence of death if specified conditions apply.

  4. Provides grants to prosecutors for DNA testing programs.

  5. Establishes the National Commission on Capital Representation.

  6. Withholds funds from States not complying with standards for capital representation.

  7. Provides for capital defense incentive grants and resource grants.

  8. Increases compensation in Federal cases, and sets forth provisions regarding compensation in State cases, where an individual is unjustly sentenced to death.

  9. Adds a certification requirement in Federal death penalty prosecutions.

  10. Expresses the sense of Congress regarding the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded.
Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HR912 on Mar 7, 2001

Increase funding for "COPS ON THE BEAT" program.

Kerry co-sponsored increasing funding for "COPS ON THE BEAT" program

COPS Improvements Act of 2007 - Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to make grants for public safety and community policing programs (COPS ON THE BEAT or COPS program). Revises grant purposes to provide for:

  1. the hiring or training of law enforcement officers for intelligence, antiterror, and homeland security duties;
  2. the hiring of school resource officers;
  3. school-based partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and local school systems to combat crime, gangs, drug activities, and other problems facing elementary and secondary schools;
  4. innovative programs to reduce and prevent illegal drug (including methamphetamine) manufacturing, distribution, and use; and
  5. enhanced community policing and crime prevention grants that meet emerging law enforcement needs.
    Authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to:
  1. assign community prosecutors to handle cases from specific geographic areas and address counterterrorism problems, specific violent crime problems, and localized violent and other crime problems; and
  2. develop new technologies to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in crime prevention.
Source: COPS Improvements Act (S.368/H.R.1700) 07-S368 on Jan 23, 2007

Reduce recidivism by giving offenders a Second Chance.

Kerry co-sponsored reducing recidivism by giving offenders a Second Chance

Legislative Outcome: Became Public Law No: 110-199.
Source: Second Chance Act (S.1060/H.R.1593) 08-S1060 on Mar 29, 2007

Facilitate recovering crime victim restitution fees.

Kerry co-sponsored Crime Victim Restitution and Court Fee Intercept Act

Congressional Summary:

Source: HR1416/S755 11-S0755 on Apr 7, 2011

Establish an FBI registry of sexual offendors.

Kerry co-sponsored the Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act

Corresponding House bill is H.R.3456. Became Public Law No: 104-236.
Source: Bill sponsored by 15 Senators and 3 Reps 96-S1675 on Apr 16, 1996

Other candidates on Crime: John Kerry on other issues:
Obama Administration:
Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
State:John Kerry
DHS:Janet Napolitano
DoD:Chuck Hagel
A.G.:Eric Holder
HHS:Kathleen Sebelius
USDA:Tom Vilsack

First Obama Administration:
State:Hillary Clinton
Staff:Rahm Emanuel
DOT:Ray LaHood
DOI:Ken Salazar
DOL:Hilda Solis

Former Bush Administration:
State:Colin Powell
State:Condi Rice
EPA:Christie Whitman

Former Clinton Administration:
HUD:Andrew Cuomo
V.P.Al Gore
Labor:Robert Reich
A.G.:Janet Reno
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Health Care
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Infrastructure/Technology
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Page last updated: Jul 12, 2013