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The Politics of Crime and the Death Penalty: Not “Soft on Crime,” But Hard on the Bill of Rights, 39 ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY LAW JOURNAL 479 (1995)


The administration of the death penalty is not one of the happiest subjects in the law, but it is certainly an important one for people who will be entering the legal profession. How our society deals with crime is timely topic for us to examine. In the last few years there has been greater resort to demagoguery as part of the crime debate in our country. This should be disturbing to all who care about the Bill of Rights and about the fairness and integrity of the system of justice

The Senate approved a major crime bill by a close vote in August, 1994. It was actually the Bush Administration’s crime bill that had been slightly retooled in the early part of the Clinton administration. The bill provides the death penalty for at least sixty offenses. Many crimes which previously could be punished by death only in the state courts are now punishable by death in the federal courts. The bill provides for a great deal of prison construction. Theoretically, it provides for 100,000 police officers, although many people think in reality that only around 20,000 will actually be put on the streets. Although nineteen assault weapons are banned, 650 semiautomatic weapons remain available for target practice, hunting and other purposes. Although Congress did not appropriate the thirty billion dollars needed to finance measures called for in the bill, it will be very expensive, and many think it is not the right approach to take with regard to crime.

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