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Carter and Crime (Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter 1st debate)



September 21, 1976


As Governor, Carter's initiatives in the area of judicial reform have been generally praised. In Phil Stanford's report on Carter for the Citizen's Guide to the 1976 Presidential Candidates, he reported that in 1972 Carter favored a law to extend the use of electronic surveillance equipment by law enforcement officials in cases of theft, extortion, or auto theft; to extend the maximum time for using such devices from ten to twenty days; and to allow information gained from such surveillance to be admitted into evidence. In 1973 he supported reintroduction of the death penalty into Georgia. In that year he also supported legislation to allow judges to deny bail to those arrested for dealing in narcotics. In 1974, he supported legislation setting tough mandatory penalties for those convicted twice of selling hard drugs and making possession of marijuana a misdemeanor.

In an L.A. Times article on Carter as Governor (March 29, 1976), Kenneth Reich reported:

"Besides reorganization, there were a number of other reforms in the Carter administration. They included substantial upgrading of the prison system, which was mired in the old chain-gang mentality, under a new director imported from New England.

By executive order, Carter created a nominating commission to screen candidates for judicial appointment and he supported the establishment of a judicial qualifications commission to discipline or remove dishonest or incapacitated judges.

He sponsored a law requiring judges to retire at age 70 and, to get around a grandfather clause protecting incumbents beyond that age, he offered them a pension supplement if they would retire immediately.

'There is no one the lawyers of this state could thank more than Gov. Carter for what he's done,' W. Stell Huie, president of the Georgia Bar, has commented. 'The bar has given him the highest plaudits we could give him'."

In a New York Times article appearing on May 17, 1976, which assessed Carter's record as Governor, James Wooten reported that Carter "imported from out of state highly respected penologists to begin a continuing overhaul of Georgia's ancient prison system, once characterized by the old chain gangs."

Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer issue of September 6, 1976, Aaron Epstein and Philip Gailey reported on the views of the Carter administration in Georgia held by Professor T. M. Simpson of the Political Science Department at the University of Tennessee. The reporters claim that Simpson has studied the Carter administration longer than any outsider. His judgment is that Carter's most underrated achievement was the strides he made in reforming the state's court system.

"Judges began to be named through a nomination commission rather than pure political choice; a court administrative office was set up; and a commission to investigate complaints about judges was set up; although its capabilities are limited because it has no staff.

Carter antagonized his conservative critics by stressing rehabilitation and early release of prisoners, both as a humane measure and as a means of coping with prison overpopulation.

But a strike and near-riots at the Georgia State Prison at Reidsville in late 1974 forced Carter to acknowledge that the prison was still overcrowded and 'the programs for rehabilitation and counseling established over the past three years have suffered as a result'."

John Dillin also praised Carter's judicial reforms in his Christian Science Monitor series article appearing on July 19, 1976.


Tab A - Carter releases dealing with crime and related subjects
Tab B - RNC's Carter Quotebook material on crime and related subjects
Tab C - Quotebox material on crime and related subjects

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).