Larry King Live Weekend
Is Modern-Day America Modern Enough When it Comes to Crime and Punishment?Aired January 22, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
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LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, crime and punishment in America, the issues that divide the country and what can be done about them.
In New York, Charles Ogletree, professor of criminal law at Harvard Law School. His new Second Chance program aims at rehabilitating non-violent felons; former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who collaborated with Mr. Ogletree on the Second Chance program; famed New York civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton; in Atlanta, U.S. Representative Bob Barr, a member of the crime subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee; and in Washington, former U.S. Attorney General, Dick Thornburgh. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Later on in the program we're going to discuss at length the Second Chance program, conceived by Charles Ogletree and Ed Koch, which is getting a lot of attention. We'll get into what it does and what it might seek to improve.
But first, we want to look at the whole picture of crime and punishment in America, and we'll start with Congressman Barr in Georgia. Are we doing better as we approach -- as we go into this next century? Are we doing better in the area of crime, punishing crime, rehabilitating criminals? Is the whole picture of crime and punishment better in this country?
REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: Well, the picture of crime and punishment is. Unfortunately, we have too much crime, but the levels of crime are going down, Larry, and one of the reasons is that we are locking people up who commit crimes.
While it may irritate those do-gooders and social workers out there, the fact that we have more people in jails in America, yet safer streets tells us something, and that is if you take these criminals off the street, punish them and put them in jail, crime goes down and that's good news for America.
KING: Mr. Sharpton, what would be your response to that?
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Well, first of all, I think that it was interesting Mr. Barr didn't deal with the rehabilitation part of your question, because I still think that there is a place for corrective behavior in terms that all criminals are not eternal criminals or not people that cannot be redeemed and turned around. So where I absolutely agree that we must punish hardened criminals, there must be room for those that are not hardened, that can be turned around, that can be rehabilitated to do so. We are approaching 2 million people in jail in a civilized society. That is not the way you build or save a nation and have a future for young people.
KING: Dick Thornburgh, former governor, former attorney general, what's your the overall read -- we'll get into a lot of specifics -- but the overall read of crime and punishment in this country?
DICK THORNBURGH, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, there's no question we've seen the crime rate go down during these 1990's, but it's still much too high. It's higher than it was in the 1970s, and we've got a lot of work to do and a lot of that is going to involve much more than just the criminal justice system.
I remember telling an audience I was speaking to not along ago, I said, if you want to lose the war on crime just leave it to law enforcement. Now, I didn't mean to run down the efforts of those people on the front lines out there, but we have a lot of questions of values and culture in our society that have to be dealt with and that's where I think we are going to turn the corner.
KING: Many facets to this. Your overall view, Mayor Koch? How are we doing? You used to ask that, how are we doing. How are we doing?
ED KOCH (D), FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: Well, you know -- how are we doing? Right. There are about 2 million people in the prisons of this country, and half of them are there for having committed non- violent offenses, and most of those are people who have used drugs. Now, what is interesting is, about 500,000 of the 2 million come out every year, and within three years the recidivism rates are over 40 percent and they are back in jail.
So we have to find a way that after you've served your term that you are given an opportunity, a job, the ability to get married, to vote, to live a regular life, if that's given to you, hopefully you will not be a repeater. Instead, our position is, once a criminal, always a criminal and we will keep you in jail forever, and if we do let you out, we expect you back in three years anyway. That's no way to run a civilized country.
KING: Charles Ogletree, has the prison system failed?
CHARLES OGLETREE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: It has, Larry, and I apologize to Congressman Barr for being a do gooder and a social worker. I believe in those principles. It's failed in this sense.
We put people in prison, we don't prepare them for them to come out, and no one is going to be in there forever. They're not sentenced to be in there forever. And they are coming back to families, they're coming back to opportunities and responsibilities, and if the prison system really worked it would make sure the people who come into prisons leave with some sense of value, some skills, some opportunity to help their communities. That's what we are advocating, not that there's too little crime or too few people getting locked up.
I don't quarrel that there's a lot of crime and a lot of people locked up. I do quarrel with the fact, what do you do after people have served their time? They're still -- they don't lose that.
KING: Bob, you wouldn't -- Congressman Barr, you wouldn't disagree with that, you do want people rehabilitated, don't you?
BARR: Listen, Larry, I certainly agree that if we do put people in jail and rather than have them just sitting around doing nothing, have opportunities available to them. If that means providing for basic GED programs, that's fine. If it means, as we have in the federal prison system with Federal Prison Industries Inc., where they can be productive members of society, even while they're in there, by helping produce goods for the federal government agencies, fine, that teaches them a skill. I have no problem with doing that.
KING: Not at all. And you favor -- you would hope that everyone could get out and get new opportunities to participate in the system?
BARR: Sure. I think that we certainly want to see that happen. None of us like to see the recidivism rate as high as it is. We ought to try and do something about it. But some of these cock-eyed schemes are not the way to go.
KING: All right.
KOCH: What are the cock-eyed schemes that you have reference to, Congressman?
BARR: Well, the cock-eyed scheme that I have reference to is the one that brought us here this evening, a scheme that says that if you have committed two or fewer violent felonies as long as you do good for a certain number of years once you get out of prison from serving time for harming society, we're going to wipe your record clean and those that you deal with, whether it's a wife or an investor, will never know that you have defrauded other people, for example.
KOCH: OK. Let me talk about that. That is the Second Chance proposal that the three of us here in New York are pursuing. Let me tell you why I think you're wrong and maybe we can convince you.
You know, ultimately you do get out of jail and what we want to do is to say to those people who are non-violent, mostly drug offenders, if you go into drug treatment or alcohol treatment, then you get your GED and you learn a job skill and you are clean for five years, and you're monitored regularly, that you will have an opportunity to apply, to have your record sealed, except for court criminal purposes. If you get into trouble and you're in the courts, the record is there and will be used against you, but when you go and look for a job, and today you answer the question, have you ever been convicted of a crime, and you say, yes, you think anybody is going to hire you?
KING: All right. Let me -- hold it right there, Ed.
KOCH: So what -- yes.
KING: I have to see -- we are just at the germ of this and it's very important, and we want to get everybody's thoughts on it.
This is LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
KING: I'm not leaving Second Chance. I want to get back to it, because that's the bulk of the program. But, some other areas I do want to cover and then we'll have Mr. Koch convince Mr. Barr.
Mr. -- Reverend Sharpton, three strikes and you're out. Bad idea?
SHARPTON: Sure I think it's a bad idea. I think that if the crime is bad enough, one strike you ought to be out. I think that what we have to have is a commitment to try and build a society that gives people a share -- a fair share and a fair break, and if they're irredeemable, fine, but I think the spirit -- you know, in the first 15 minutes of the show we've been called do gooders, social workers and cock-eyed. I mean, that's kind of harsh, and none of us are even criminals.
KOCH: You've been convicted.
SHARPTON: But I got a second chance.
KING: Dick Thornburgh, in this area of general discussion, is capital punishment a plus or a minus? As a former attorney general, I'd be interested in your thoughts.
THORNBURGH: Well, I think we have to have the ultimate penalty, the death penalty available in those very rare cases where it's suitable. It's been declared constitutional, it's the law of the land in most states. It certainly shouldn't be used broadly, but with the constitutional guarantees that are built into our system now, I think it does have an effect.
Let me tell you where it does have an effect, and I think when you're talking about a willful premeditated murder, where someone is contemplating taking another's life in a criminal fashion. If you can interrupt that thought process, and this is not a spur of the moment crime of passion. This is a carefully planned murder. If you can interrupt that thought process with a prospect that, that individual might forfeit their own life, then I think there's a good chance, common sense tells you there's a good chance that they are going to abandon that, and that is what I think is the basis for a limited death penalty.
KING: Does it bother you that DNA has already gotten over 50 people out of prison who are on death row, meaning they didn't do what they were there for? They might have died.
THORNBURGH: I think that's marvelous. I think that's what our technology ought to be doing, it ought to be...
KING: Yes, I mean, but doesn't that bother you that these people might have been executed?
THORNBURGH: Well, they might have -- the way the scheduling of these goes now, there's ample time for people to dig up that kind of evidence and it's not always the DNA. It's often just careful, dogged work on the part of counsel representing people on death row.
KING: Charles Ogletree, do we know enough -- what do we know about crime? Do we know why people are criminals? How well have we studied it?
OGLETREE: No, we don't, Larry, and I think that's one of the problems. And I'm surprised by Dick Thornburgh's answer. I have always respected him as the U.S. attorney and attorney general, but his views about the death penalty are troubling, and he, I think, would recognize that there a lot of people who have been found innocent after further investigation. And now the federal effort is to eliminate appeals, to eliminate this process, and people may be killed not because they're guilty...
THORNBURGH: No, come on, Charles.
OGLETREE: ... because they don't have good lawyers. Now, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, this movie "Hurricane" now talks about a man...
OGLETREE: ... who could have faced the death penalty in New Jersey, 20 years in prison before he's proven to be innocent of the crime. And the point is that we should never make a mistake of taking the life, the states sanction of taking of a life without due process. That's what worries me that we can say now we are OK because it's constitutional. It may be constitutional. It doesn't make it right if it means that many people could run the risk of losing their life, because juries make mistakes, prosecutors makes mistakes, judges make mistakes, and we can't have a person who's innocent of a crime have their life taken.
THORNBURGH: Charles, one thing you and I see absolutely eye to eye on and that's the need for adequate counsel for people in capital cases, and I think one the shames that we have in this country is that we haven't funded adequately public defender offices or other lawyers who are representing people who face that ultimate penalty, and that's a tragedy.
KING: Of course, Bob Barr, you would agree that to execute an innocent person, there could be nothing worse than that?
BARR: Well, you never want to have an innocent person executed the same as you never want to have an innocent person who's a victim of being murdered as well. KING: Yes, but when the state commits an execution of someone who didn't do it, I mean, that's -- the state is committing murder?
BARR: I can't -- they're not committing murder, but I can't think of any mistake more serious.
KING: How do you redress the grievance?
BARR: Well, what I think the problem here is, Larry, between -- the dialogue between General Thornburgh and the professor is what is due process? The professor throws around this notion very glibly that under new laws and proposals there is no due process. That's nonsense. There's plenty of due process and neither General Thornburgh nor I nor anybody on this program would want to see due process taken away.
KING: All right. Ed Koch, what are your thoughts on capital punishment? It's back again in New York, right?
KOCH: I support it.
KING: You support it, do you not?
KOCH: Yes, we -- I support the death penalty, have for 35 years, and while it's on the books in New York, nobody has actually been executed, and there are D.A.'s in the New York City who say they will not bring a death penalty case, but that's another issue. I believe that the death penalty, as the Supreme Court believes, is appropriate in particularly egregious cases.
Dick Thornburgh has mentioned some of them, but what is also interesting is there is not a single case that I'm aware of where there is a consensus by the editorial writers and the law enforcement authorities that a person who was convicted, actually executed, was later found not to be guilty. There are in lots of cases where people were convicted and then subsequently exonerated before execution.
KING: Let me get a break and come back and ask Reverend Sharpton if he's concerned about statistics involved in blacks in the criminal justice system, and we're also going to discuss at length Second Chance and non-violent crime, and the -- larger than that, how about the legalization of drugs? That thought as well to reduce crime in America by changing what is a crime. Don't go away.
KING: Reverend Sharpton, your partner there on the panel, Ed Koch, wrote about this, the large percentage of the blacks in the criminal justice system, nearly one out of three, 29 percent of black males age 20 to 29 are under some form of correctional control, prison, parole, probation. Does that concern you and what can you do about it?
SHARPTON: Well, I think it is frightening, because you're talking about losing an entire generation if the numbers continue to grow at the level that it is, and I think that when you add that to the general data that blacks, African-Americans are almost 15 percent of the population, yet over 50 percent of those incarcerated, it speaks to how any number of studies confirm that the criminal justice system is prepared to incarcerate blacks for the same crime with the same criminal record much more than they are white counterparts. Now, when you look at that, that is why the death penalty is disturbing, that is why a lot of severe punishment is disturbing, because we are not dealing with an even playing field in the criminal justice.
KING: All right. You're saying, Al, that blacks are not committing per capita more crimes, they're just being punished more?
SHARPTON: I'm saying the punishment is more severe when it involves blacks and any number of studies show that, and the data that I just gave you shows that. Either we are absolutely more criminal or we are more punishable. And I think that there are many studies that validate we are more punished.
KOCH: Can I give you a direct example of that? Under the federal law, and Congressman Barr can comment on this, I hope, if someone uses five grams of crack cocaine and convicted, they get a mandatory sentence of five years.
In order for someone to get a comparable five-year sentence if they use powder cocaine, which is the drug of choice of whites in the suburbs whereas crack is the drug of choice of blacks in the inner cities because it's cheap, a white person would have to use, or anyone using powder cocaine, 500 grams before they are subject to the same mandatory five-year penalty.
Now, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Commission has recommended twice to the Congress that they reduce the disparity. In their first recommendation they said there shouldn't be any difference. It should be exactly the same, and in their second, when the Congress rejected that, they said, well, let there be some modest disparity, and the Congress, because it's afraid to be perceived as soft on crime, including the president, rejected the recommendation.
BARR: Well, Ed...
KOCH: That means that blacks disproportionately are going to jail for five years and their white counterparts...
KING: All right. You explained it well.
Congressman Barr, how -- why is there a difference?
BARR: Well, I don't know why the mayor, who was elected and served very admirably as the people's representative in New York City, is so down on representative government. Representatives in Congress and the president is representative of this country elected by the people, reflects their views, and to just so cavalierly say that Congress has no role, or they've done something wrong here, they are representing...
KOCH: I said they have no courage. BARR: ... their constituents. The fact of the matter is, Ed, you sitting there may think that 500 grams of powdered cocaine is different from 50 grams of crack cocaine, or they are the same, they are very different.
The substances are, in fact, very different, and my experience both as a former U.S. attorney working very closely with federal, state and local law enforcement officers and staying in very close contact with them as a member of the Judiciary Committee is that these officers have no racial ax to grind. They go where the drugs are and they prosecute them without regard to race, and you cannot show anything other than these bald statistics to support your proposition.
KOCH: Bob, let me just say this. There's no question that law enforcement concentrates on the inner cities, because there is more crime in the inner cities, no question about it. And as a result of that, blacks who live in the inner cities are arrested and they go to jail, mandatory penalty of five years in the situations that I described. There is crime out in the suburbs.
BARR: And they're prosecuted, Ed.
KOCH: No, they're not prosecuted.
BARR: Yes, they are.
KOCH: And someone who -- in order to get five years for using your powdered cocaine, you have to use a hundred times in volume what a black uses in crack cocaine.
KING: You're not saying -- Bob Barr, you're not saying the playing field is level, are you, in this country?
BARR: I'm saying the playing field is level. What we're getting...
KING: It is?
BARR: Yes, it is. What we are getting off on here is a bogus distinction or a bogus impression that we are talking about the same substance. These substances are very different, Larry.
KING: So it is -- but, no, the essence of crime though, Bob, is you're saying that if a black man and a white man walk into a courtroom they are treated identically in America?
BARR: In my experience as a U.S. attorney and a member of the Judiciary Committee -- and we hear from all sorts of people, including mothers in the inner city of all different races.
KING: And the treatment is identical? In other words, you see one and the other, you're colorblind?
KING: And the law is colorblind? BARR: Absolutely, it is, Larry, and in particular with federal law, where you have sentencing guidelines that ensure that it is colorblind.
KING: OK. Let me get a break. We'll come back with more, and we'll find out how Second Chance works as well. Don't go away.
KING: Before we have Charles Ogletree explain Second Chance and get into a major discussion of that, Al Sharpton, how do you respond to what Bob Barr just said that everyone is equal under the law?
SHARPTON: Well, I think that any number of studies, any number of even government studies contradicts that. I think that it is absurd to say, given the statistics, over 50 percent of the people in jail today in this country are black, when we are about 15 percent of the population. So, I think it speaks for itself.
I also think that when you talk about loose cocaine, you're also talking about people who push and bring large quantities of cocaine into areas to sell it. To say that they should get less time than an individual user of crack, Congressman Barr, you are helping to increase crime.
BARR: Al, I have no idea what you're talking about and I don't think you do either.
SHARPTON: I absolutely know what I'm talking about. If the laws that you...
BARR: What you said made no sense whatsoever.
SHARPTON: Loose cocaine, sir, is used by those that push large quantities of drugs.
BARR: And they're prosecuted, Al.
SHARPTON: But under the federal sentencing laws if you are found with a large amount of loose cocaine, under the federal sentencing laws you can get less time than someone found with a vile or two of crack.
BARR: Well, they're different substances. Now, you may not realize that, but they are.
SHARPTON: That is the federal sentencing law. That's the law, sir.
KING: Dick Thornburgh, is -- Dick Thornburgh, you're the former attorney general, is the playing field equal in this country?
THORNBURGH: I think the disparity is too great in terms of sentencing, but Bob Barr is absolutely right. Crack cocaine is a much different substance than powdered cocaine.
KOCH: In what way?
THORNBURGH: In fact, it was crack cocaine that has more tendency to induce violence in users. It has more of a capacity to have long- term health effects, there are pharmacological findings on that. There is no question about it. You wouldn't claim that they're both the same?
KOCH: Now, I want to say this, Dick. Most of the people who are in jail for drug use are not there for violent offenses. They are not there for violent offenses. They are there for the use and possession...
THORNBURGH: Or trafficking.
KOCH: ... of an illegal substance.
SHARPTON: And how do they traffic, Mr. Thornburgh? They traffic with loose cocaine. You make crack out of loose cocaine. How can you say that loose cocaine doesn't matter when you can't make crack without loose cocaine?
THORNBURGH: Well, are you arguing for an equal treatment of these two substances?
THORNBURGH: That crack cocaine and powdered cocaine...
KOCH: In the same way that the...
THORNBURGH: That flies in the face of every pharmacological finding made.
SHARPTON: Well, that's like saying in Prohibition...
OGLETREE: No, it doesn't.
SHARPTON: .. to let's say gin is illegal, but it's all right to have vodka. I mean, that's ridiculous.
KOCH: Dick, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Commission made the recommendation that you and I are now discussing. You think they're nuts?
THORNBURGH: No. I think they -- if they call for that kind of treatment that they're flying in the face of the scientific evidence.
BARR: Well, they are. I think...
THORNBURGH: Let me mention one other thing that I...
KING: One at a time. Then, Charles, I'm going to bring you in. Go ahead, Dick.
THORNBURGH: I do think it's a crime that we have so many young African-American people in prison today disproportionately to their share of the population. I think that's something that speaks ill of our society.
But I think it's important to remember that the victims of the violent crimes committed by African-American defendants are almost always other African-American citizens and they have an interest in seeing the law enforced and they have an interest in seeing these people who have committed violent crimes serve a substantial period of time so that they're not at large, and I think that...
SHARPTON: I think you're absolutely right. I think, Mr. Thornburgh, that you are absolutely right. We are the victims. We are the ones that are terrorized, which is also why those that bring in the loose quantities that end up in our communities and boil down to crack ought to also be given a lot of time, so they can't begin the process in the first place.
THORNBURGH: I agree with you. I agree with you.
KING: Charles Ogletree, I want to spend some time here on Second Chance. This is your baby and I know you have Ed Koch and Al Sharpton on the same platform with you on this.
OGLETREE: Yes, and it's great.
OGLETREE: After 20 years of disagreement, they agree on this idea that we need to do something serious about it from our justice system.
KING: Second Chance is basically what?
OGLETREE: It's a program designed to give non-violent drug offenders and other non-violent offenders a chance -- a second chance at life, to be able to come back to their communities, to be productive members of their family, to get jobs and to turn the community around.
We are going to release more than 500,000 people in the next year coming back from sentences. They don't have jobs, they don't have job training, they don't have drug counseling. They will go right back to the same type of vices that put them in jail the first time. And it's in all of our best interests to come up with the program that make sure the people who are coming back in the community have opportunities to do that.
Our program is tough. They have to go through counseling. They have to go through educational training. They have to be drug-free. They could still have a record if it turns out they commit another offense. And it's not a permanent disbarment; it's a chance to start over again and become productive members of society.
KING: All right. I've got to get a break. And I'll have some questions for you, your honor, then I'll entire panel will discuss it. This is LARRY KING LIVE.
We'll be right back.
KING: Let's reintroduce our panel on crime an punishment. They are Charles Ogletree, professor of criminal law, Harvard Law School, and co-originator, with Ed Koch, of the Second Chance program. The former Mayor of New York is Ed Koch, and he's with us as well, as is Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist and president of the National Action Network. In Atlanta, Congressman Bob Barr, member of the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. attorney in the Reagan and Bush administrations, in Atlanta, and in Washington, Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania, former United States attorney general.
All right, Charles Ogletree, Second Chance -- is it in place anywhere?
OGLETREE: No, we have met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. I've met with Attorney General Janet Reno. We've met with the mayor of Washington D.C., state and federal judges. We've met with district attorneys, and U.S. attorneys, and probation people and those who are former drug offenders, and we've got a lot of enthusiasm in support of it. Bill Raspberry of "The Washington Post" just recently wrote a column supporting it, saying we don't go far enough. And the Congressional Black Caucus will be introducing legislation in the next coming term to try to embrace the ideas that we have in our proposal.
KING: Congressman Barr is opposed -- Congressman, you can't be opposed to the general concept of giving someone a basic chance. It's a basic Judeo-Christian ethic. In a nonviolent crime, where someone has done something to themselves, what's wrong with giving them another opportunity in life?
BARR: Frankly I don't know what this particular program has to do with Judeo-Christian ethic. It's pretty tough. An eye for an eye.
KING: The Second Chance. Forgive -- remember that old concept? Someone talked about it 2000 years ago?
BARR: I've heard about it.
BARR: Larry, the fact of the matter is, these folks here tonight are talking about something that they think is some new program. It isn't anything new, and as a matter of fact, if we're talking about a second chance, as opposed to a third chance, a second chance, that is available. In Georgia here, for example, we have something, and have had for many years, called first offender treatment. If you have an individual who has committed a nonviolent offense and it is a first time offense, the chances are very, very good that they will be granted first-offender status, which means that they're placed on a sort of quasi-probation for a period of time. All of the criteria that Professor Ogletree just said, and if at the end of that period time, they have maintained a clean record, their record is sealed.
KING: Then you agree with it?
BARR: I agree it for first-time offenders; I do not agree with it for second or subsequent offensives; that's the dividing point.
KING: All right. Let me get everybody's opinion before we get into it.
Dick Thornburgh, what's your thoughts on Second Chance, as described by Charles Ogletree.
THORNBURGH: Well listen, Larry, I'm for anything that increases the opportunity for someone to rehabilitate themselves. When I was attorney general, we put a great deal of emphasis in the prisons, on drug treatment programs, literacy programs, vocational job training, so that when folks left, they had a better shot at returning to a normal life.
I do have some questions about this program, and I think it's important to focus on the details. Number one, I gather what Bob Barr says is true, that you can be a five-time loser and still participate in this program when you come out into the community again. Secondly, and I understood at one time, that it had a provision that it would force the governor or the president to issue a pardon to an individual who had come out of prison, and I'm not sure that that's constitutional. And the third thing is that I wonder, does this, Charles, apply to white collar criminals as well, so that any of these savings and loans crooks that we work so hard to put away can clean up their act as well?
OGLETREE: It's nonviolent offenders, Dick.
THORNBURGH: So that would include white collar crime?
OGLETREE: We're not discriminating against anyone who wants to come back and be rehabilitated, have a job, become a productive member of community. We believe in forgiveness. We believe in a second chance. That's the point.
KOCH: The point, if I can just add to this, is this -- what we're proposing is a win-win situation, in that we -- if you read the literature, you'll find that people who go out, and get married and have children and a family don't become recidivists. People who come out of jail and can't get jobs do become recidivists and can't get married.
So our program says, we want you to be able to apply for a job and be able to respond to the question, have you ever been convicted of a crime, after you've gone through all the procedures that I've talked about before -- drug treatment, alcohol treatment, get a GED, get a job skill, and wait five years to make sure that you haven't committed a crime in that period, that you will then have your record sealed. It will not be sealed for court purposes. If you ever commit a crime, the judge is going to know all of your prior crimes, and you'll be sentenced accordingly.
KING: What's wrong with that, Dick?
THORNBURGH: Have you abandoned the feature that would call for a pardon to be issued to these people?
KOCH: Actually, it wasn't a requirement. You can't compel the president. But actually, we have found out -- I must plead ignorance. I thought originally when we proposed this that the president granting a pardon would expunge the record. I found that it did not. So a pardon is not required.
SHARPTON: And I think that is significant, that if there's a first offenders program that Congressman Barr can even agree with in Georgia, then we all can agree that there must be some way...
BARR: Al, listen. I said -- and I'm not going to let you get away with that, like other people do.
KING: Let him finish.
SHARPTON: Well, you haven't even heard what I said.
KING: Hold it, Bob, let him finish.
BARR: But I won't let him lie, Larry.
SHARPTON: I said that you agreed with me.
BARR: I do agree with you.
SHARPTON: Is that not right? That's what I said.
KING: OK, that's all he said so far.
BARR: The way you phrased with it, it came out as even Bob Barr wouldn't agree to.
SHARPTON: No, no, I said that even Mr. Barr told us about it. I think you're just ready to put your dukes up when I come in the ring.
KOCH: Bob, we're going to put you on the letterhead.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that -- what I'm saying is that the Congressman talked about the first offenders program, so all of us agree, which he agrees with, so all of us agree there must be some level of giving people a re-entry into society. I think the debate is at what level. KING: Right.
SHARPTON: I don't think that -- that is where we have to come in. Because I was happy to hear even Congressman Barr, who thinks there's an even playing field in America. We disagree there, but we do agree there ought to be some level of re-entry. His re-entry is a first offenders program in Georgia. I think that what we're saying, is that we believe there should be a more expanded level of that for nonviolent offenders.
KING: OK, now let's elaborate on that when we take a break and come book with more.
Don't go away.
KING: Charles Ogletree, there are a number of Americans, some of them very conservative, William Buckley among them, who thinks we should legalize drugs, I mean, and reduce the price; it's basically a crime against yourself, and therefore you'd send half the people out of prison to begin with.
OGLETREE: I disagree with that, with all due respect to my friend William F. Buckley Jr. I think a lot of conservatives -- George Schultz has talked about this. My friend Kurt Schmoke, former mayor of Baltimore talked about some decriminalization, and I think it's sensible to talk about alternatives to the problem, but I don't think decriminalization is going to solve the problem. And I think you'll find most African American clergy are against it for the same reason. You can't condone the use of drugs, even if it's designed to solve another problem, the problem of crime.
KING: Even though you have two killer drugs, alcohol and tobacco, perfectly legal.
OGLETREE: Right. Exactly. But there's a little bit of difference between alcohol and tobacco and heroin, and crack-cocaine and a lot of other drugs that are very dangerous, and I wouldn't want my children or anyone's who I know children to be able to go purchase illegal drugs over the counter. I don't think that's the solution to the problem. I think it's going in the wrong direction.
KING: Now Dick Thornburgh, I gather, Dick, from your question, you didn't like the concept that this would give a second chance to the savings & loans guys, right?
THORNBURGH: Well, I think that this distinction between violent and nonviolent offenders is a little bit false in that respect.
THORNBURGH: I think we have some serious white collar criminals that I don't want to see get a second chance, and I think that appropriate jail terms are given to them, and the stigma within their community is much greater than it is within a high-crime community, and I would hope that some way could be found to exclude...
OGLETREE: But, Dick, I don't think we're in disagreement, because even though it's available to white collar criminals, those gentlemen, by and large, aren't going to have problems getting jobs anywhere. A lot of them go to prison with a lot of money that they can get once they get out of prison. I mean, there a lot of people who are white collar criminals -- I mean, I think it's a philosophical difference. It's of no substance, because there's no white collar criminal who is going to come out and not have a job. And so I think it's not a real substantive point to disagree with our proposal.
My question is this: 500,000 people are going to be released from jail. What do we do about them? I mean, it's sort of, we can sit back and do nothing, and have police arrest them and send them back, and pay from $20,000 to $70,000 a year to maintain, or we can make them productive and meaningful members society. It doesn't make sense to me that we sit and just wait for the next crime. What do we do about 500,000 people?
KING: Congressman Barr, what do we do about them?
BARR: Well, one thing that we need to do a better job of, Larry, is to have a better job monitoring folks when they get out of prison, have a better job of having the probation and parole officer monitor them, remain in contact with them. And also, with regard to either deferred sentencing or placing people on probation, we need to look for judges that are a little more imaginative, to be honest with you, than some of our judges, so that they do require as a condition of probation some of the programs that the mayor, and the professor and the preacher are talking about this evening.
OGLETREE: Congressman Barr, if you funded those programs, if you funded the programs when people are on probation, we wouldn't have the problem. You are abolishing parole in many instances. People don't have parole officers. It doesn't exist anymore.
BARR: What I'm not talking about is not the tail wagging the dog. I'm talking, professor, primarily about the state crime, which is the vast majority of crimes that face American citizens day to day in our country.
SHARPTON: But I think when you say, Congressman Barr, that we need to get the judges to a little more imaginative and when you, in my opinion, rightfully, say, force them into programs like the mayor, and professor and preacher is saying that you are very slowly moving toward agreeing with us about a second chance.
THORNBURGH: Notwithstanding all the discussion taking place this evening, I think this is a fairly noncontroversial program. I think there's a broad basis for this kind of program. But I want to be very careful that we focus on what the real problem is. People aren't concerned about nonviolent criminals out there in the streets today. What they're concerned about is violent crime, and we want to make sure that we don't dismantle a program that has effectively brought our crime rates down, our violent crime rates down.
KOCH: But 50 percent of the people in jails, prisons today, are drug users and are there because of possession of drugs.
BARR: That's not true, Ed.
KOCH: Well, I believe it is.
BARR: The vast majority of people in prisons for drug offenses are not there for simple possession or personal use. They are there, as the former attorney general said earlier, if you'd been listening, for drug trafficking and other types of offenses that go far beyond simple drug possession or use.
THORNBURGH: Victimizing their community.
KOCH: I will tell you that 50 percent were not sent away under statutes that designate the crime as violent. I'm saying that the 50 percent that are there are sentenced under nonviolent charges.
BARR: You're pulling a Clintonesque on us.
KOCH: I don't know what that means.
KING: Charles, where does it stand, the Second Chance? Is it in legislation? Where is it?
OGLETREE: The Congressional Black Caucus will be convening to look at our legislation. Of course, they'll modify it, as we hope that they will, and propose some legislation that will address the issues that we're concerned about. So we met with them this November, and when they returned to this next session, there will be some legislation introduced that will address these very issues.
KING: It would only apply federally then?
OGLETREE: It would start federally. The idea is to have federal lead, but the states can do the same thing. We've talked about this in Massachusetts. We've talked about it in New York. We've heard entries from Maryland -- Baltimore is interested in having some of the program. Congressman Conyers wants it in Detroit. Everyone we talked to said, how can we get this at local state level? That's where it makes a significant difference.
KOCH: Governor Bush, who I sent the program to, told me that the Texas legislature is considering this year expungment of criminal records along the lines that we're talking about.
BARR: I don't think he was talking about anything beyond the first offense though, Mr. Mayor and that is the clear dividing line here. What I am saying, and what I think the governor is saying and many say, yes, we do believe in a second chance, but what you're talking about is something that goes far beyond that and could pose a lot of dangers to a lot of people.
KING: Let me get a break, and we'll come back, and we'll ask what we mean by "danger" right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Congressman Barr, if Second Chance were law everywhere, what would be the danger?
BARR: Well, the danger would be, as the attorney general alluded to a little bit ago, Larry, you would have people who may have two, or three or whatever offenses for bilking senior citizens out of huge sums of money, had been clean for several years under this program, and then are free to go out there. The investors would have no way of knowing that these people had a history and a proven track record of being fraudulent and ripping people off. That's the sort of danger that this program would subject people to.
KING: And what about in the drug area? There wouldn't be danger would there?
BARR: Well, in the drug area, you always have a danger, with people who deal in drugs. Because people who get into that, very few of them get out of it.
KING: OK, Al Sharpton, how would you counter that?
SHARPTON: Well, I would say that clearly, when you're dealing with two million people in jail, the overwhelming majority of the people that could take advantage of a second chance are not those that have been the white collar people that have taken the millions of dollars or bilked senior citizens. And though I certainly would agree with Mr. Barr that no one wants to see those people put in position to do that, we must deal with the tens of thousands who are maybe a drug user, who abuse themselves and who have no way to re-enter society, build a family, build a constructive life. That is the purpose. Given the could be Texas of two million people in jail, we must do something to allow people to re-enter society, to prove that they can earn and deserve that second chance.
KING: Would you agree with that be, Dick Thornburgh?
THORNBURGH: If this was limited to first-time offenders, surely, but I think the second chance shouldn't escalate into a third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh chance, and that's the prospect that you have under the broad kind of plan that's presented here. It's a good idea to make these opportunities available. The question is in the details, as always.
OGLETREE: Well, I'm glad that they both agree with the first chance. I'll take that. I think that's an important step forward, to recognize that people who have committed a crime and who are punished -- probation, prison, whatever it may be -- deserve a chance to come back and be productive. I think that's an important step in where we're going. That's where we started. And I think once we see this myth, that one offense or two offenses makes a distinction, ultimately, we'll see that people can come back and lead productive lives. Congressman Barr and the former attorney general agree that we're going in the right direction, and that they will support the idea that people who have committed an offense can return to communities and be productive members of society.
THORNBURGH: Keep working at it, Charles.
OGLETREE: I will, Dick.
KING: Charles, where can people get more information on Second Chance, by the way?
OGLETREE: We have...
KOCH: Well, write to either Charles or myself.
KING: You can write to Mayor Koch in New York or Charles Ogletree at Harvard, right?
OGLETREE: At Harvard Law School, yes.
KOCH: Let me just say this, what they're saying is the person who never went to jail, first offender, who is given and alternative to jail, that's OK to give a about second chance, and we're for that. What we're saying is after you have served your five years or whatever it is that you've served, we think, under very regulated circumstances, where you've done a lot to deserve it, that you ought to have a second chance, if you are a nonviolent offender. Dick Thornburgh and Bob, my colleague in Congress, said one time, there are 50 percent pregnant. We're going to bring you a long.
BARR: I don't remember that.
KING: And what's wrong, Dick, if you've serve five years, and a first offense and you're now getting out, that you be given this second chance.
THORNBURGH: No, I think the first offense qualification is terribly important. What I'm worried about is that there's no restriction here, and this person may be coming out of jail after serving four or five terms and stretches in there.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for increasing to the maximum the opportunities for people to rehabilitate themselves. That's what our system ought to be about. But I think we've got to be very careful that under the guise of doing that, we're not creating new problems of the type that I mentioned to you this evening.
KING: We'll take a break and come back with our remaining moments on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE, right after this.
KING: In a general area, Reverend Sharpton, are you -- this is for everybody -- are you optimistic or pessimistic about reduction in crime, second chance programs a better look at the situation?
SHARPTON: I think that we must as a society protect the citizens, but we also must protect the future of the country. The future cannot be to lock people up, throw the key away; even some states now are incarcerating children as adults. We must be able to have a balanced policy, where we protect society, but we also protect the future of the country and give those that want to contribute to that a chance to do that.
KING: All right. And are you optimistic that will happen?
SHARPTON: I'm very optimistic. Look at what happened tonight, Bob Barr started calling us cockamanie; he ended with a first offenders program. That's progress.
KING: Bob Barr, are you optimistic?
BARR: I'm very optimistic, Larry. You've even on this program tonight destroyed my reputation and made me somewhere warm, soft and fuzzy. I'm going to take a walk and rehabilitate myself.
KING: Try it, Bob. It could be fun.
But you do favor concepts, certainly, that people can get better, or else, what are we worth as a society?
BARR: Well, I do, but one thing that does makes me optimistic is the recent trends that we have seen, led my by Mayor Giuliani and others, where we are seeing reductions in crimes, and I think we ought to isolate those factors that indicate why -- to show why that's happening. We ought to continue with those. But the program that we're talking about here tonight, if it is a true second chance, not a third, fourth, fifth or sixth, then I think it is the sort of think that may have some merit.
KING: Ed Koch, are you optimistic, in all your years of being around this?
KOCH: Yes, I am very optimistic. We've been working on this for five years, and suddenly, people are saying, we've got to do something different than that which we've done, and they're looking at this program and seeing it's not being soft on criminals. We don't want to be soft on criminals. and we're not. But what we're saying is, you can't just throw away the key; it doesn't exist. They're coming out. We've got to deal with 500,000 people who are coming out of jail. Some of them can be redeemed.
KING: Dick Thornburgh, optimistic?
THORNBURGH: Well, I want to go back to something I said at the outset, and I think it's important to focus on why we have so much crime in this country today. And I'm going to quote the present deputy attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, who gave a marvelous speech on Martin Luther King's birthday some years ago. And he said crime is generated by a lack of value, soaring unwed birth rates, absentee fathers, an aversion to work and an unwillingness to embrace societal standards and time-honored discipline. Until we tackle those problems of value and culture in our society, we're going to still have a whale of a problem to deal with in terms of crime. KING: And, Mr. Ogletree, we'll give you the final thoughts. Are you optimistic?
OGLETREE: Oh, absolutely. And the values that Eric Holder talked about are just as important to Second Chance -- forgiveness, hope, opportunity concern. I think this is an important new millennium goal, that we'll make sure that everyone who comes out, who follows the rules, who is disciplined, can have a second chance. It's an American concept, and I think it will work.
KING: Thank you all very much for an intriguing hour, and if you want more information on Second Chance, you can write to Charles Ogletree, at Harvard Law School, in Cambridge Massachusetts or Mayor Ed Koch; just write Ed Koch in New York. They know where to bring the mail. We thank our panel for being with us. We thank you for joining us.
I'm Larry King. Good night.
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