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Remarks on Signing Into Law the Juvenile Justice Amendments of 1977

October 03, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, everybody. We've assembled here this morning to discuss House of Representatives act 6111, the Juvenile Delinquency Act of 1977.

One of the most serious problems that faces our country, of course, is that of rampant crime. And we know from experience and from examining the statistics that almost half of the crimes are committed by juveniles. We also realize that, unfortunately, in our country there has been an absence of adequate distinction between those juveniles who commit serious crimes, such as murder, rape, robbery, on the one hand, and those who commit crimes that are no threat to their neighbors, like being a runaway child.

In many communities .of our country, these two kinds of crimes--one serious and one not very serious--are treated the same, and young people have been incarcerated for long periods of time, who have committed offenses that would not even be a crime at all if they were adult. It costs about $12,000 a year to keep a young person in prison. This act very wisely draws a sharp distinction between these two kinds of crimes. It also encourages local administrators, States, and local governments to deinstitutionalize those young people who have not committed serious crimes.

We are extending here the Runaway Youth Act for 3 years, which I think is a good step forward, and in this bill is adequate financing for this act itself. There's also an allocation in fiscal year 1978 of $150 million for juvenile justice under the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration.

I'm very proud of the work that has been done. As you may or may not have heard, some of the Senators are not able to show up this morning because of other business before their body. I'm particularly sorry that Senator Bayh can't be here. He's been very instrumental in the passage of this act. But we have some of the Members of the House behind me who have been very effective in dealing with this very serious problem of juvenile crime--Congressman Pepper and others.

It's with a great deal of pleasure that I now sign into law act 6111, the Juvenile Delinquency Act of 1977.

[At this point, the President signed H.R. 6111 into law.]

I want to congratulate you gentlemen behind me for the good work you've done.

REPRESENTATIVE PEPPER. Mr. President, we are so grateful for your recognition of the importance of trying to preserve from the area of criminality the younger people of the country. We realize that any approach to the problem of crime is a very difficult one. We've tried the orthodox approach. I wish we could, in the future, put more emphasis upon the preventive aspects of crime. And I believe we can do that best by trying to stop school dropouts, trying to provide jobs for the younger people, perhaps after school, in the summers, give them incentives to do creative and constructive work and to live useful lives.

I'm convinced that if we could put into effect an effective, adequate preventive program, we could reduce crime in this country at least 25 percent. I hope this is a good beginning in that direction.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. It's not an accident that the foremost spokesman for the elderly in this country is also Claude Pepper, who's also--[laughter]--who's the foremost spokesman for young people.

I want to again thank all of you for coming. I think it's a good step forward today. And I believe that if this program can be administered effectively through LEAA and through the Department of HEW, that we'll have a good program that will take our Nation forward on fighting crime, and particularly among the young people of our Nation.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:34 a.m. at the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 6111 is Public Law 95-115, approved October 3.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Juvenile Justice Amendments of 1977 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242590

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