Public Papers

Remarks at the Dedication Ceremony for the North Los Angeles County Correctional Facility in Santa Monica, California


Thank you all very much, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Sheriff Block. Thank you all for that warm welcome back. And, Sherm, let me just say once again the respect that I feel in my heart for you and others that are serving with you in this important work. I understand your daughter, Barbara, is here -- Sergeant Persten, I believe, of the sheriff's department. If it's not inappropriate, I'd like to see her as long as I'm talking about her. There she is, right there -- sorry to embarrass you. And, of course, to all the members of the sheriff's department, and to Mike Antonovich and old friend Pete Schabarum and all the supervisors, delighted to be here. Sybil Brand was introduced to me as our Points of Light lady. And I know that all interested in law enforcement are grateful for all she's done.

And now, I'm going to offend others by being exclusive, except I want to single out my friend, the Congressman Elton Gallegly from this area, doing a superb job in Washington. I wish we had more like him when it comes to support for law enforcement. And to all the other members of the Los Angeles law enforcement community that are here today, it is my view that all too often, you are the unsung heroes on the war on crime, of our assault on drugs. And, yes, it is my honor to visit you here today. I've visited, as President, many education programs, rehabilitation programs, Head Start programs designed to, through education, help kids from the very beginning. And now, I've just completed the tour of Super Max, the 900-block maximum security prison. And I'll tell you, it does concentrate the mind.

It was a short tour, very short, but I won't ever forget it. It was long enough to bring anyone face to face with the reality of what institutions like this represent. Jails and prison do testify to something in the nature of man that most people put aside, prefer not to think about: the capacity for violence, the power of corruption, the ability to turn our back on what's right and do wrong. But they are also the ultimate proof of the community's determination to protect itself and serve justice. One of this nation's Founding Fathers said, ``If men were angels, no government would be necessary.'' Well, I'm sure that no one here would suggest that men were angels. And that's why there's government to write the laws we live by and correctional facilities like this one for the people who break them.

When this ceremony is over, it will be time for many of you to go back to business. Go after the people who turn our cities into battlegrounds and our kids into drug users. Help our communities fight back.

This facility was built to meet the needs of L.A. County. Every penny -- every penny -- produced by State and local funding. And that's a sign that your vibrant community, the Los Angeles community, the Los Angeles taxpayer, knows that in the fight against crime and drugs, tough talk is simply not enough. And if you're going to be tough on crime you've got to be tough on the criminals. Talk to any law enforcement officer and they'll tell you what that means: No more revolving door. No more criminals out on the street because there isn't enough cell space to hold them.

And I'm here to tell you, citizens and law enforcement officials of Los Angeles County, that the Federal Government is doing its part to combat crime. Right now we're making a new effort in this area. That means more Federal prisons. And this year alone, over .5 billion will be devoted to prison construction to build over 24,000 new beds. And that's just this year. I've urged Congress to add another 4 million for more Federal cell space in 1991.

Fighting to win against crime and drugs means tougher laws. I've called on Congress to pass a tough, no-nonsense anticrime package. I'll tell you something. I feel deep in my heart that I owe that to each and every law enforcement officer that's here today and those that are serving all across this country. And so, today, though, let me call on you: Keep working with us and with all the elected officials at every level of government so that every American citizen can have faith that the law is on their side, not the criminal's. And that does mean tougher State and Federal laws, stiffer penalties for crime and violence -- more for crimes of violence, and more certainty in sentencing; an end to easy parole; no deals for criminals carrying a gun; and for anyone who murders an officer of the law, justice means nothing less than the death penalty.

I know every law enforcement officer here today wants only one thing: the chance to do his duty, uphold the law. And for that, you deserve our thanks. Now, I know there have been difficulties. I've read the papers and I've seen the stories this past week about the indictments here. Don't let it get you down. Yours is the largest sheriff's department in the world -- 11,000 people fighting the good fight. Keep your heads high. If some bad apple turns up, if an officer abuses your trust or ours by doing wrong, we must be that much more dedicated to supporting the countless officers, the millions across this country who honor the law by doing what is right.

You are, as I said a few minutes ago, society's unsung heroes. And I thank you for your service not just to your community but to our country. And I've got to tell you, as I walked through that facility with Sheriff Block just now and met some of the young officers in there who are doing this kind of work, I'm saying to myself: This isn't the easy way. There would be other ways that they could find to make a living that might be more easy. But it is the dedicated way. It is a way that really upholds the best in America's tradition of service.

Let me close by paraphrasing William Blake: ``Prisons are the concrete of justice.'' Prisons are very much about the real world. There's a tendency, particularly among people of great sensitivity, to think about justice in airy and abstract terms: the idea, for example, that in spite of crime, all people are basically good. But it is unwise to think in the abstract when it comes to crime. Most people are good. But some, let's face it, are not. And today, I've visited perhaps the most modern facility in the country. And to think, I would say to my fellow Americans, to think concretely about crime, you should visit a facility, a prison facility.

I salute you for your work. I appreciate the opportunity to have made this visit. I am grateful to all of you for this warm welcome. And now, Sheriff Block, with your permission, sir, I'll cut the ribbon and officially open the North County Correctional Facility. God bless each and every one of you. Thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:09 a.m. at the facility. In his remarks, he referred to Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block, county supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Peter F. Schabarum, and institutional inspection commissioner Sybil Brand. Following his remarks, the President attended the Republican Governors Association luncheon in Los Angeles.