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Last Updated:3/31/00
Speech by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), March 29, 2000
[Page: H1535]
Ms. WATERS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

Mr. Chairman, I join all of my other colleagues who have stood here today, rising in support of the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi). This debate has become a long debate because we have a growing number of legislators who are concerned about this wrongheaded policy that we are pursuing.

Mr. Chairman, this supplemental appropriations provides over $1.1 billion in aid to the government of Colombia. Most of this money will go to the Colombian military and be used in the Colombian civil war. This civil war has been going on for 40 years, and both sides, both sides have profited from the drug trade.

Furthermore, the Colombian military has been known to cooperate with drug traffickers. Colombian military officers also provide support to right-wing paramilitary organizations that traffic in illegal drugs, and carry out extrajudicial killings and other gross violations of human rights.

[TIME: 1730]

This bill gives money to drug traffickers who kill other drug traffickers and murder innocent civilians. This bill is unwise and immoral, and we should not support it.

We are focused today on what is happening domestically. We are rising in opposition to this funding and supporting the amendment of the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi) because we are very concerned about what is not being done in America. We are just growing our prison system.

The number of inmates in State and Federal prisons has increased more than fivefold from less than 200,000 in 1970 to 1,232,900 by 1998. An additional 592,000 are held in local jails. As of July 1999, 131,112 offenders were incarcerated in approximately 100 Federal facilities. There are 115,363 inmates housed in Federal facilities rated to hold 89,696.

At the end of 1998, State prisons held 1,178,978 inmates. In June of 1998, 592,462 offenders were held in local jails.

The number of persons on probation and parole has been growing dramatically along with institutional populations. There are now 507 million Americans incarcerated, on parole, or probation, an increase of 209 percent since 1980.

A few more statistics. Mr. Chairman, 71 percent of those sentenced to State prisons way back in 1995 were convicted of nonviolent crimes, including 31 percent for drug offenses and 29 percent for property offenses. Fifty-seven percent of jail inmates in 1989 reported they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time they committed their offense. One in four inmates way back in 1989 was in jail for a drug offense compared to one in ten in 1983.

Drug offenders constituted 21 percent of 1997 State prison inmates and 60 percent of 1996 Federal prison inmates. I could go on and on with these statistics.

Mr. Chairman, I am sick and tired of this wrong-headed policy. I am just overcome by the fact that we cannot get it right here in our own country. We are talking about throwing away money down in Colombia; and nothing is going to happen but drug dealers are going to fight drug dealers, both in and out of the government. And here we have mandatory minimum sentencing that is locking up young folks, young folks in rural and inner cities, at an alarming rate. Mandatory minimum sentences.

Many of these young people, 19 and 20 years old, first-time offenders. The judge has no discretion. He must send someone in possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine to prison for 5 years on a first-time offense, as opposed to those with powder cocaine, 100 times more. Some of these young people may be stupid, but they do not deserve to have their lives taken away from them. And this is not black. Black, white, green, rural, inner city. Prisons just filling up.

And, oh, let me tell about the conspiracy charges that they are now arresting the mothers and the women and the girlfriends and the mates on. We are spending millions of dollars, and our country is going down the drain.

Mr. Chairman, it was unwise for them not to make the Pelosi amendment in order, and it is unwise for us to support this appropriation to Colombia.

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