Reno Urges 'Balanced' Response To Jonesboro Shootings
Attorney general says lawmakers must balance punishment, prevention
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 26) -- Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday the nation needs to learn what it can from the schoolyard shootings in Jonesboro, Ark., but should not let the tragedy lead to extremes in crafting legislation to counter youth violence.
Reno, who spoke with reporters at her weekly briefing, said the goal should be "firm, fair punishment that fits the crime," coupled with prevention programs that keep children out of trouble in the first place.
"I think it is important that we not let a case cause us to go to one extreme or the other," Reno said. "We have got to continue to work through these issues in a very balanced way."
On Wednesday, President Bill Clinton asked Reno to probe the Arkansas shootings, in which four school children and a teacher died, and two other school shootings in Paducah, Ky., and Pearl, Miss. Two boys, age 11 and 13, are in custody in connection with the Jonesboro killings.
Reno said Justice staffers are going through federal statutes to see if there is a proper federal role in the Jonesboro case. The two boys could be charged with certain federal crimes as juveniles, Reno said, but the question remains how long that juvenile jurisdiction would continue and whether they could be charged as adults.
Reno said it was important "to try to do everything possible to prevent such terrible tragedies in the future."
"We want to work with Congress to fashion juvenile justice legislation that is smart and wise, that is tough in the sense that the punishment will fit the crime, but also provides for dedicated prevention monies that can make a difference," Reno said.
At the same time, Reno said she wants to resist efforts to remove "fundamental protections" for youth who are incarcerated.