Capuano's Statement on the House Floor regarding the Juvenile Witness Protection Act

[Congressman Michael E. Capuano's Remarks as they appeared in the Congressional Record on Thursday, October 21, 1999 on Page E2164. Click here to view text of legislation.]

October 21, 1999

"Mr. Speaker,"

"This week more than 350 young Americans gathered in our Nation's capitol to share their views about violence and how it has affected their lives. Three individuals from my district -- Pierre Laurent and Amanda Abreu of Somerville, MA, and Yarimee Gutierrez of Boston, MA, came to Washington to take part in the Voices Against Violence conference. Their commitment to addressing the problems associated with violence among youth is to be commended, and I want to take this opportunity to personally thank them for their efforts to make a difference within their schools and communities."

"As Pierre, Amanda, Yarimee and the other participants of the conference return to their respective communities with a renewed commitment to this cause, I believe it is Congress' responsibility to do all that we can to support these young peoples' efforts. What better way to do this than to provide legislation that assists young people who are striving to do the right thing? For this reason, I rise today to introduce the Young Witness Assistance Act of 1999."

"Sadly, more and more of our Nation's youth are becoming intimately familiar with violent crime. These crimes include homicide, assault, robbery, domestic violence and sexual assault. Upon witnessing such violent crimes, they suddenly find themselves in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether or not to report the act. Far too often, many young people choose to stay quiet. In many ways, who can blame them? Witnessing a violent crime is a traumatic experience. Additionally, reporting a violent crime can potentially lead to additional hardships that threaten the well-being of the young witness. Earlier this year in Connecticut, an 8-year-old boy and his mother were gunned down after the boy agreed to testify as a witness in a murder trial. In my district, a young man and his family were harassed and threatened after he agreed to assist authorities in an armed robbery case -- eventually his family removed the boy from school and placed him into hiding in reaction to repeated threats on his life."

"It's time we take a stand for the young people who are willing to stand against crimes in their communities. The Young Witness Assistance Act is a step in the right direction. It provides Federal funds to state and local authorities specifically for establishing and maintaining programs that assist young witnesses of violent crimes. Authorities can use these funds to develop such activities as counseling for the youth; pre- and post-trial assistance for the youth and their family; educational services if the youth has to be removed from school; community and school based outreach initiatives; and protective services. The bill would authorize $3 million for each fiscal year from 2001 to 2003. No new money will be used to fund this effort. Rather, funding would be derived from existing monies within the Violent Crime Reduction Trust Fund."

"Mr. Speaker, this bill supports our Nation's young people who take a courageous stance against violent crime in their communities. It sends a message that Congress cares and is willing to provide the assistance young witnesses need. Forty-fix members of the House, Democrats and Republicans, have acknowledged this by becoming original cosponsors of this legislation. It is my hope that the House will 'do the right thing' and pass this legislation."