Richard Nixon photo

Remarks to the National Conference on Corrections, Williamsburg, Virginia.

December 06, 1971

AT LONG last, this Nation is coming to realize that the process of justice cannot end with the slamming shut of prison gates.

Ninety-eight out of every hundred criminals who are sent to prison come back out into society. That means that every American concerned with stopping crime must ask this question: Are we doing all we can to make certain that many more men and women who come out of prison will become law-abiding citizens?

The answer to that question today, after centuries of neglect, is no. We have made important strides in the past o years, but let us not deceive ourselves: Our prisons are still colleges of crime, not what they should be--the beginning of a way back to a productive life within the law.

To turn back the wave of crime, we must have more effective police work. We must have court reform to insure trials that are speedy and fair. But let us also remember that the protection of society depends largely on the correction of the criminal.

I look to this National Conference on Corrections to focus the Nation's attention on this problem, and to come up with specific recommendations to blaze the trail of prison reform.

Locking a convict up is not enough. We must also offer him the keys of education, of rehabilitation, of useful training, of hope--the keys he must have to open the gates to a life of freedom and dignity.

Note: The President's audiotaped remarks were played at the first plenary session of the conference in the Williamsburg Convention Center. The conference, convened at the President's request and sponsored by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and the Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice, was held on December 5-8, 1971.

Richard Nixon, Remarks to the National Conference on Corrections, Williamsburg, Virginia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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