[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[January 12, 1998]
[Pages 38-40]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Ending Drug Use and Drug Availability for Offenders and an 
Exchange With Reporters
January 12, 1998

    The President. Thank you very much, General. Thank you, Mr. Holder and 
Mr. Vice President. Ladies and gentlemen, 
this country's eternal quest for a more perfect Union has always 
succeeded when we're able to apply our enduring values to a new set of 
challenges. That is what we try to do around here every year. Over the 
past 5 years, we've done our best to bring the values of personal 
responsibility, community, and respect for the law to bear on the fight 
against crime. We've sought to be tough and smart, to punish criminals, 
and to prevent crime. We've put more police on the streets and taken 
criminals, guns, and drugs off the streets. Crime rates have dropped 
steadily for the last 5 years. Drug use has fallen by half since its 
peak 15 years ago. Teen drug use is leveling off and, indeed, may well 
be decreasing again. But we're a long way from my vision of a drug-free 
    Fighting drugs in our prisons and among prisoners is absolutely 
critical, ultimately, to keeping drugs off the streets and away from our 
children. Of all the consequences of drug use and abuse, none is more 
destructive and apparent than its impact on crime. Too many drug users 
are committing crimes to feed their habit. More than half of the cocaine 
that is sold in our country is consumed by someone on parole or 
probation. Four out of five inmates in State and Federal prisons were 
either high at the time they committed their crimes, stole property to 
buy drugs, violated drug or alcohol laws, or have a long history of drug 
or alcohol abuse. Parolees who stay on drugs are much more likely to 
commit crimes that will send them back to jail.
    We have to break this vicious cycle. Common sense tells us that the 
best way to break the cycle between drugs and criminal activity is to 
break the drug habits of the prisoners. That's why we have made coerced 
abstinence, requiring inmates to be tested and treated for drugs, a 
vital part of our anti-crime efforts. We've doubled the number of 
Federal arrestees who've been tested for drugs, expanded testing among 
inmates and parolees, and tripled the number of inmates receiving drug 
treatment. To inmates we say, if you stay on drugs, then you'll have to 
stay in jail. To parolees we say, if you want to keep your freedom, you 
have to stay free of drugs.
    Last year, I worked for and signed a bill that requires States to 
test all prisoners and parolees for drugs before they can receive 
Federal prison funds.
    Today I'm directing the Attorney General to strengthen this effort 
by taking necessary steps to achieve three goals. First, we have to help 
the States expand drug detection, offender testing, and drug treatment 
in their prisons by making it possible for them to use Federal funds for 
these purposes. Second, we have to help States get even tougher on drug 
trafficking in prisons by enacting stiffer penalties for anyone who 
smuggles drugs into prison. Finally, we have to insist that all States 
find out how many of their prisoners are actually using drugs so that 
every year they can chart their progress in keeping drugs out of prisons 
and away from prisoners.
    The balanced budget I'm sending to Congress later this month will 
continue to strengthen our testing and treatment efforts. We can balance

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the budget and fight crime and drugs at the same time.
    If we can simply break the chain between drug use and criminal 
activity for people who are under criminal supervision, in prison, or on 
parole--if we could just do that--we can go a very long way toward 
making our streets and our neighborhoods safe for our children again. 
That is what this Executive order is designed to do. I know it can work. 
I have seen the high rates of return from good treatment programs in 
Federal facilities. We can do this at the State and Federal level. If we 
do not do it, we will continue to see people go right back on the 
streets with the drug habits that got them in trouble in the first 
place. If we do it, the crime rates will plummet, and the drug problem 
will dramatically shrink.
    Thank you very much. Let me go sign the order.

[At this point, the President signed the memorandum.]

Asian Economies

    Q. Mr. President, what do you hear about the Asian--[inaudible]----
    Q. Mr. President, what do you say about Iraq's--[inaudible]----
    The President. I'll take them both. On the Asian issue, I received a 
briefing this morning from Secretary Rubin 
and Secretary Albright, and I've 
obviously kept in touch with it; I do daily. We are working hard on it. 
I want to emphasize that the most important thing that has to be done is 
that all the countries affected have to make sure they have the very 
best policies to have good financial institutions, proper practices, 
things that will inspire investor confidence. But these economies have 
enormous productive capacity. They have generated dramatic increases in 
growth for their people, and we can restore stability if the countries 
will take the steps that are necessary. Then the IMF reform packages 
have to be followed. And the rest of us need to be in a position of 
supporting those trends.
    We're following it on a daily basis, and I believe that the path 
we're pursuing is the correct one.

Situation in Iraq

    Q. Mr. President, what do you think of Iraq's threat to block 
inspections by the American-led team? Are we going back to where we were 
last November? What can we do about this?
    The President. Well, I certainly hope not. Now, of course it hasn't 
happened yet. But I think that it's important to make just a few basic 
points here.
    Number one, if Saddam Hussein does this, 
it is a clear and serious violation of the United Nations Security 
Council resolution.
    Number two, the United States had nothing whatever to do with 
selecting this team, the people on it, or its composition. The team 
that's there is part of a larger team of people, 43 people from 16 
different countries. There are a substantial number of Americans on this 
team. They were picked by the person who is in charge of the inspection 
process because of their technical expertise. Everyone who goes there 
should be technically qualified, and the United States has not attempted 
to influence the composition of the people on the teams. But certainly 
Saddam Hussein shouldn't be able to pick and choose who does this work. 
That's for the United Nations to decide.
    If they are denied the right to do their job tomorrow, then I expect 
the United Nations Security Council to take strong and appropriate 

Sexual Offender Tracking System

    Q. Mr. President, a few years ago you set into motion the Pam 
Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act, that you wanted 
all 50 States to centralize their sexual offender records. Less than 
half the States and the District are into that interim computer system 
which is eventually going to lead to a permanent system, which caused 
you to sign--to send a letter to the Governors to get them off the dime.
    How do you look at that effort now, when you think that sexual 
offenders may be falling through the cracks and only half the States are 
on board?
    The President. Well, I think the letter I sent says it all. The 
truth is that the stakes here are quite high, and we have the ability, 
through technology, to centralize these records to get the job done. I 
know it requires some cost and some effort on the part of the States. 
We're having a similar problem with fewer States in the child support 
area, trying to centralize records there so we can interconnect the 
systems. And I know this is difficult, but it has

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to be done. And if it is done, we can make the country much safer.
    So we'll keep pushing them. And I think most of the States, probably 
all of them, really want to do it. They know it's the right thing to do, 
and they just need to put somebody on it in each State capital and make 
it a priority. It can be done.

Legislative Initiatives

    Q. Mr. President, there's a Republican proposal to pay for 100,000 
new teachers. What do you think of that, and why haven't you proposed 
that yourself?
    The President. Well, I have lots of proposals for the State of the 
Union that haven't been made yet. You don't know what I'm going to 
    Q. [Inaudible]--about raising the minimum wage?
    The President. What I hope we will be able to do in this session of 
Congress is to make education a national issue. It would please me if it 
could be a nonpartisan issue. We fought awfully hard and finally 
succeeded in getting the Congress to agree that we ought to go forward 
with national standards and testing to see whether our children are 
meeting those standards. I hope we can reenergize that movement and do a 
lot of other things in this coming session of Congress for education 
reform. And I'm looking forward to it.
    I have, some weeks ago, signed off on a very ambitious agenda, only 
part of which has been revealed. We'll just keep working at it. And then 
I'll work with the Congress, and, whatever ideas they have, we'll be 
glad to get together and work with them.

Note: The President spoke at 2:39 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Office of National Drug Control 
Policy Director Barry R. McCaffrey; Deputy Attorney General Eric H. 
Holder, Jr.; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.