Empty maximum-security cell for two inmates.

John Hanna | AP Photo

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Yes, it was all an April Fool’s joke. The entire rationale and premise on which the top legislative priority of the D.C. people was built on an illusion. On a federal level, there is no widespread epidemic of people being locked up for “non-violent drug offenses.”

The entire debate over the prison population on a federal level is absurd. Proponents of jailbreak legislation speak about the issue in the abstract and concoct all sorts of myths as to who is sentenced for federal crimes. This is, in fact, a finite and verifiable population. Why don’t we stop talking past each other and actually take a look at what is the 800-pound gorilla behind the federal criminal justice system? 

Take a look at this chart from the Bureau of Justice Statistics breaking down the numbers and category of offenses of those sentenced for federal crimes in FY 2015:

Criminal justice chart

What is the first observation that jumps out from this data?

Notice that more than half of all those sentenced for federal crimes were Hispanics. Are Hispanic-Americans that problematic? Do they really commit more than twice as much crime than blacks? The state prison data and general crime statistics certainly don’t support that premise. According to Investor’s Business Daily’s analysis of the U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics, “[B]lacks under 18 account for just 23% of the nation's drug offenses, but a shocking 52% of all violent crime — including 51% of murders, 69% of robberies, 34% of rapes and 43% of aggravated assaults.”


What is clear when you juxtapose the total convictions to the large number of immigration-related sentences and the drug trafficking convictions, the 800-pound gorilla in the room when dealing with federal crimes is — ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.

What is clear when you juxtapose the total convictions to the large number of immigration-related sentences and the drug trafficking convictions, the 800-pound gorilla in the room when dealing with federal crimes is — ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. Both directly, by clogging up the system with immigration cases, and indirectly, through the open border and drug cartels and proliferation of drugs, more than half of all federal sentences are a byproduct of immigration and the drugs that are brought in as a result of the porous border.

Why is it that only 16% of the state prison population is comprised of drug offenders as opposed to almost half of the federal prison population? Again, for the same reason Hispanics, not blacks, dominate the federal prison population. It’s all about illegal immigration and the drug cartels. As I’ve noted before, only 13 simple possession federal cases were tried in non-border districts in FY 2014.

Now, take a look at the small number of sentences for “simple drug possessions.” Eighty-four percent of those convicted are identified as Hispanic. That tells you, as anyone who understands the federal system knows, nobody is locked up for 20 years in federal prison for simple drug possession. They are almost all illegal aliens who should be deported anyway, instead of sapping our funds by receiving food and shelter in our prisons. Also, even the small numbers of non-Hispanics sentenced for simple drug possession were almost certainly cases that were plead down from greater offenses. Nonetheless, those cases were viewed by the U.S. Attorneys as worth their time and effort obviously because they were likely violent individuals who were initially arrested for more serious offenses or had an extensive state criminal rap sheet.

Hence, the entire premise of federal jailbreak legislation — that there are infinite numbers of individuals serving time in federal prison for “nonviolent drug offenses” — is complete bunk.

If we would deal with the immigration problem and keep out much of the drug infestation by building the fence and implementing visa tracking, both the direct effects of immigration and the drug problem, which is a byproduct of immigration, would reach a manageable level. We would save a lot of money on incarceration costs and dramatically reduce the prison population — all without risking the safety and security of Americans by indiscriminately and retroactively releasing violent criminals into our communities.


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