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Dole Goes to ‘Tent City’ Prison to Press Attack on Clinton

September 17, 1996

PHOENIX (AP) _ From inside a spartan prison compound, Bob Dole pressed his criticism of President Clinton’s crime record on Tuesday and urged no-frills treatment of prisoners. ``We’re going to be tough,″ Dole said.

The Republican presidential nominee was working hard to recapture crime-fighting as a Republican issue _ a day after Clinton claimed the endorsement of the nation’s largest police organization.

Dole toured a 1,000-inmate `tent city’ county prison, billed as an inexpensive alternative to traditional jailing and established by a sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who also has received national attention for setting up women chain gangs.

Although Dole did not encounter any chain gangs _ male or female _ during his hour-long visit to the Estralla Jail Facility, he did greet some inmates jammed together on metal cots inside canvas tents under a sweltering sun.

He later told law-enforcement officials, civic leaders and crime victims: ``If you’re in jail, you can’t commit another crime.″

The visit came a day after Dole announced an anti-crime package that includes a doubling of the federal contribution to state prison construction, to $810 million a year, tougher prison sentences for violent crimes and a requirement that prisoners work to help compensate crime victims.

Dole also paid a private visit to former Sen. Barry Goldwater, 87, who is recuperating in a Phoenix hospital from a mild stroke. Clinton visited the conservative patriarch last week.

Arizona has eight electoral votes and has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1948. However, recent polls there show Clinton ahead.

Dole is emphasizing crime- and drug-fighting during a three-day campaign swing to Arizona, California and Nevada. He gives a speech in Los Angeles on Wednesday in which he is expected to urge a ``no tolerance″ approach to drugs in movies and television shows.

Dole was taken on a tour of the tent-city prison by Arpaio. The sheriff told Dole the prison was set up so that inmates ``don’t want to come back.′

Arpaio’s prescription: 23-hour lockups and chain gangs for misbehaving inmates of both sexes, a ban on smoking and coffee drinking and restrictions on television and reading materials. He also took away hot lunches and serves prisoners less-expensive bologna sandwiches.

Dole said such an approach might also work in certain other parts of the country. He praised Arpaio for building such a low-cost prison facility. The tent city was set up by in 1973 at a cost of only $117,000, utilizing 42 surplus Army tents.

As dozens of armed guards stood by, Dole and his entourage walked past row after row of tents. There was some scattered applause and one inmate yelled, ``Four more years.″ But, for the most part, prisoners looked out in sullen silence. ``What a waste,″ Dole told Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods as he surveyed the prison scene.

Dole, who started his political career as a county prosecutor in Kansas, shook a few hands with inmates and signed several autographs.

One, who identified himself as Robert McManus and said he had two months to go on a conviction for attempted aggravated robbery, told Dole: ``We don’t like it here. I’ve learned my lesson.″

McManus told reporters that life in the tent city was hard. ``The heat. The way you’re treated. Everything you do, there’s a big line you’ve got to wait on.″

Dole’s campaign was buoyed by recent polls showing a narrowing of the gap with front-runner Clinton, and by a decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to exclude Ross Perot from the debates.

The Dole campaign had wanted only one-on-one debates with Clinton.

Dole, who learned of the decision as he flew to Arizona, told reporters: ``I’m prepared. We’re ready to go. ... I think the debates ought to begin.″

Clinton’s lead narrowed to 8 percentage points among likely voters in an ABC News poll released Monday. His advantage also eroded in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup tracking poll released Tuesday, though only to 14 points.

Dole’s speeches this week reflect a shifting in emphasis away from the economy.

In his jail-yard speech, Dole put his own spin on Clinton’s endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police.

``Even though the president got the leadership of the FOP, I’ll get about 80 percent of the men and women out there walking the beat every day,″ Dole predicted.

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