The “Get‐Tough” 1980s

Ted Gest

in Crime and Politics

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780195103434
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833887 | DOI:
The “Get‐Tough” 1980s

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By 1980, the violence rate had reached its highest level in memory, including a modern record of more than 23,000 homicides. The victor in the presidential race that year, Ronald Reagan, was surrounded by key supporters and advisers who wanted to make crime a high administration priority. The administration named a violent crime task force that called in August 1981 for a stronger federal role and changes in the law to favor the prosecution side. Three years later, a coalition of Republicans and moderate Democrats used a parliamentary maneuver to enact the most far‐ranging federal anticrime law in 16 years. Key players in pushing the anticrime agenda included Republicans like Edwin Meese, a longtime Reagan aide who later became Attorney General; Representative Dan Lungren of California, and prosecutor/crime victims advocate Lois Herrington; on the Democratic side were Senators Joseph Biden of Delaware and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Representative William Hughes of New Jersey. An important provision of the law was a requirement that “sentencing guidelines” restrict federal judges’ power to set penalties in criminal cases. Others created a federal fund to support programs that aided crime victims and set up a “forfeiture” procedure by which law enforcers could seize the assets of suspects and convicts.

Keywords: crime victims; forfeiture; Lois Herrington; homicide; Edwin Meese; prosecution; Ronald Reagan; sentencing guidelines; task force; violent crime

Chapter.  9670 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: US Politics

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