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Gore Proposes Crime Victims' Bill of Rights

Aired July 18, 2000 - 1:31 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And speaking of the election year, we want to switch you live now to Memphis, Tennessee, on the campus of Rhodes College. There he is, the vice president, Al Gore, talking about the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, which he is announcing a proposal for. He is also talking a little bit about his opponent. We'll listen in for a few moments.


VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the state's health care program. This apparently will worsen an already grave budget situation, the worst in Texas in a long, long time. And a state senator in Texas has now called for an independent audit of the budget by a respected accounting firm to get to the bottom of why, five months ahead of time, suddenly there is cooked up a projection that is said to be designed to prevent the state's bond rating from plummeting.

But I don't think it's right to put Social Security at risk or to propose an approach to budgeting for the federal government that probably, if the mathematics can be believed, and I think arithmetic is reliable, would result in the same kind of elimination of the surplus that you have seen in Texas, but at the federal level.

So I call on Governor Bush to provide some details about why his top -- one of his top economic advisers say that the Social Security Trust Fund it would run dry under his plan, and how he can justify proposing that Social Security borrow up to $3 trillion, and go into debt for the first time in its history.

Now I want to turn to the topic that we have before us here today. All week long, I am going to be talking about the issues related to crime. And the place to begin is with the victims of crime, who deserve more attention and more consideration than they have received in the past, a lot more.

On the issue of crime, generally, I think it's worth noting that for eight years now, we have seen a decline in the number of crimes committed in the United States in every category. And there are a number of law enforcement officers here joining us today, including the attorney general of Tennessee, and a sheriff, and some law enforcement specialists, and I complement them on that.

The policies of the Clinton-Gore administration helped to beef-up community policing, and to make other chances that have made it a lot easier to get criminals behind bars, and reduce the crime rate. I want to continue that.

But I think that it is high time, indeed long past time, to focus on the rights of victims. And that's why today I am proposing, in the presence of some very able advocates for victims and some victims who have to -- survivors, I might say, is a better word -- who have the courage to speak up and try to help others as a result of the lessons they have learned from their experiences. And in their presence, I am proud to propose a Crime Victims Bill of Rights.

And I want to tell you little bit about it. First of all, I am proposing a constitutional amendment to guarantee that crime victims have rights in the legal process. The accused criminals have all kinds of rights, and we all understood why that is a part of our system, but here is the point. When those rights are enshrined in the Constitution and the rights of victims are not, whenever the two come into any kind of conflict, it is not even a close contest. The victims are put in the back seat and sometimes completely ignored. And you will hear from some individuals here, some very courageous individuals who have gone through that kind of situation. And we need to change that by having what Reverend Fleasure (ph) said was balance in the system, so that there is an ability to arrive at a common sense result.

Now, the second part of my Crime Victims' Bill of Rights is to make sure that the victims of a crime have the right to attend the proceedings when their attackers are on trial. And I am proposing a crime victims leave law so that, under federal law, under my proposal, a victim of a crime will have the right to take time off work to attend the trial of his or her attacker without fear of losing the job or losing a promotion.

After all, you are legally required to go and serve on juror duty. Well, if the trial is being conducted of your attacker, you ought to be able to go and attend those proceedings. Just as under the constitutional amendment, you ought to have the right being notified if someone involved in violence against you is going to be released from the criminal justice system.

You ought to be eligible for restitution for the damages you have suffered as a result of the crime.

Now third, I am pushing hard for reenactment of the Violence Against Women Act, which is designed to protect women and children against domestic abuse, against stalking, and against other crimes that have sometimes in the past gotten short shrift.

I am proposing, in addition, some new steps to give counseling for the children who were involved in these proceedings, to make sure that they are held by the hand and guided through the traumas that come even after the violence.

I am proposing new housing vouchers for those who are victims of domestic violence who need to get out of the situation they are in and find another safe place for themselves and their children. Now, next, I am also proposing that we focus on prevention of crime because so many crimes can be avoided if we do the right things in the area of prevention, and these specialist have long been leading the way in promoting that point of view. And I feel very strongly about that also.

Fifth, I am proposing that we pass the hate crimes law because crimes motivated by hatred based on gender or race or religion. Obviously, these crimes, as seen in the tragedies of James Byrd and Matthew Shepard and other individuals who have been victimized because they are somehow labeled as "different," we need to put that on the books.

Now, bringing the focus back to the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, I would like to get into a...

ALLEN: All right, Al Gore, on the campaign trail, sitting with crime victims in Memphis, Tennessee, announcing he wants a proposed constitutional amendment, he calls it a Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. And it borrows heavily from a similar one introduced by a Republican and Democratic senator. In fact, even though Gore is announcing his support for this Victims' Bill of Rights today, he has been criticized for half-hearted support of a victims' rights resolution that is in the Senate.

You always heard the vice president talking about his opponent, that is about news that has broken from Texas. Reports surfaced last week that Texas had $610 million in cost overruns, and that led to criticism of Governor George Bush's 1998 tax cut.

Well, now, the Texas comptroller is reassuring people that Texas can pay its bills and it has plenty of money to spare. But a Democratic state senator is accusing Republican leaders of cooking the state budget books. We will continue to watching that story as well.



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