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Dole Presses His Anti-Crime Crusade

Politics: GOP nominee links drugs, violence in campaign stops in West. He also tours a tent city jail with the 'toughest sheriff in the world.'

September 18, 1996|MARIA L. La GANGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Bob Dole took his anti-crime crusade West on Tuesday, attacking the Clinton administration for opening up the "crime pipeline" between drugs and violence and vowing to bring back an America that "doesn't fear the streets of our own neighborhoods."

"There are over a million more children using drugs today than the day Bill Clinton was elected," Dole told a cheering late afternoon crowd at the downtown Convention Center. "Many of them will end up committing more and more serious crimes until crime and violence become a way of life."

Earlier Tuesday, at an unusual jail in Phoenix, Dole met some of those same children--now grown and serving time for drug-related offenses. Dole draped himself in the trappings of toughness.

There was the oft-described "toughest sheriff in the world" in the "best-managed city in the world," where the Republican presidential nominee toured what has been called the cheapest, meanest jail around--where more than 1,200 inmates are incarcerated in tents through searing summers and fed brown-bag lunches instead of hot food.

Inmates at the Estrella Jail are not permitted to smoke and coffee is prohibited. Chain gangs for men and women are considered a form of rehabilitation and those who will not work face 23-hour lock-down.

On Tuesday, semiclad inmates lolled on metal cots in khaki tents with the sides rolled up to let in a breeze and blowing sand from the hot Sonoran Desert. A few crude signs backed the president, one reading: "Clinton for '97."

"I never want to come back to this place, this kind of conditions, again," inmate Robert McManus, serving time for attempted aggravated robbery, told Dole during the candidate's five-minute tour.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, creator of the so-called "tent city jail" told Dole and a small crowd of supporters that the goal of his facility is to save taxpayers money.

"No. 2," he said, "we're trying to make it so tough they never come back. We have a lot of tents, a lot of desert. . . . There will always be room for people who violate the law."

A round-table panel of Arizona residents at the jail told Dole their stories--of travail at the hands of unrepentant felons, of difficult battles against the ravages of crime.

There were tales of murder and domestic violence, of neighborhoods terrorized by gangs and drugs. A raspy-voiced activist told the presidential candidate of being hit by a drunk driver and burned over 95% of her body.

Carol and Roger Fornoff told of their daughter's murder more than a dozen years ago. And a woman who identified herself as Rita, mother of a teenage daughter murdered 11 years ago, pinned a memento on the candidate's lapel and asked him to "wear it occasionally to remember us."

"The black ribbon is for death and grief," she said, as she reached for the candidate's lapel. "The red ribbon is for pain. And the angel that is placed in the middle is for the victim."

Dole heard success stories, too, of grass-roots organizations that have taken back the streets of Phoenix. And he heard frustration, as he stood in the strong Arizona sun, a chain-link fence laced through with concertina wire at his back, the drab tent city with its pungent chemical toilets in front of him.

"How are we all supposed to stay motivated getting those drug dealers out of our neighborhoods when there's the appearance that their best customers are in the White House?" asked one man who belonged to an anti-crime group called Nail 'Em.

"I can promise you this," Dole said in reply. "We're going to cut drug use in half. We're going to be tough on juveniles who commit violent crimes. We're going to end the revolving door of justice. We're going to make prisoners work. They work here."

Dole's visits to Phoenix and San Diego came a day after he unveiled a plan to cut drug use and violent crime. The plan, which he pushed throughout the day, leaned heavily on justice system issues: greater federal funding for state prison construction, adult charges against juvenile offenders and a promise to sign an executive order requiring prisoners to work to pay restitution to their victims.

He echoed many of the Phoenix speakers who asked him for help when he called for tough, more conservative judges. He voiced his support for a victims' rights amendment to the Constitution. And he praised the Estrella Jail.

"This is not a country club," he said in a moment of understatement. "This idea may spread in certain other parts of the country. And I talked to one of the inmates who said: 'I don't want to come back here. I've learned my lesson.'

"And I hope he never comes back," Dole continued. "And I hope he goes out and does a good job and gets a good job and a family and stays away from crime. That's what we want."

Dole has not been to Arizona since March, when he lost in the state's Republican primary to millionaire publisher Steve Forbes. In 1948, Harry Truman was the last Democrat to carry Arizona, long considered a GOP stronghold.

Dole spent the night in Woodland Hills. He will give a speech and attend a rally in the San Fernando Valley today, before traveling to Chico. He will campaign in Las Vegas on Thursday.

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