THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON DRUG TESTING The Oval Office
2:39 P.M. EST
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 five 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 five 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 America. Fighting drugs in our prisoners 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 tell 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 ever 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 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.
(The Order was signed.)
Q Mr. President, what do you hear about the Asian --
Q Mr. President, what do you say about Iraq's --
THE PRESIDENT: I'll take them both.
Q 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.
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 action.
Q Mr. President, a few years ago you set into motion the Pam Meissner (phonetic) Sexual Offender Tracking Act 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 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 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.
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 propose.
Q How 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 re-energize 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 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.
END 2:48 P.M. EST