Don’t be fooled: ‘Revisions’ in the prison ‘reform’ bill aren’t worth the paper they’re written on

· December 11, 2018  
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Man in prison
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The Republican Party now exists for just one purpose – to undo Reagan’s successful policies on crime that led to the biggest drop in violent crime in history.

Republicans have only days left until they lose control of the trifecta of government. We have a drug trafficking and transnational gang crisis inextricably mixed up with the border and sanctuary city problem that is responsible for death mayhem at our border and in all our states. Yet they refuse to fight.

We have a health care crisis, yet they refuse to fight. We have a debt crisis, yet they refuse to fight. We have a crisis with the courts taking over our government, yet they refuse to fight.

But when it comes to letting out the worst federal drug traffickers who are involved in transnational gangs and cartels, the very “animals” for whom Trump promised the death penalty, not early release – that is the one issue for which they are willing to go to the mat.

Mitch McConnell has been pressured to schedule a vote on the First Step Act, as if the issue is a national emergency such that the Senate will work between the holidays.

The insidious promotion of this bill should concern you just as much as the bill itself. The bill has the resources of the entire political and cultural class behind it, but a few individuals successfully exposed how this bill releases some of the worst human beings from prison and offers much lighter sentencing at the front end. Proponents of the bill employed a brilliant tactic to “overdraft” the legislation to make it even worse than their talking points suggested. This allowed them to spend weeks denying those provisions were even in the bill, forcing opponents to expend all their capital exposing those “extra” provisions. Now, they are promising to revise the bill, so they look reasonable and magnanimous and will paint anyone who still opposes it as “intransigent,” even though the foundational problems still apply. And they have the masters of the “conservative” universe making this the “moral” issue of the time.

This is why many of those who opposed this bill were intimidated into supporting it based on a few changes. This is one of the most effective, time-tested legislative tactics I’ve seen throughout my career.

“Fixing” a jailbreak bill amid an immigration, drug, and gang crisis all saturating the federal justice system is akin to “fixing” an amnesty bill during a border invasion. There is no way to fix it because it is absolutely not what we should be doing. Immigration precedes and causes the drug trafficking problem in most parts of the country. Let’s solve that first. We need to be tougher on drug traffickers at a time when we are already offering leniencies to all the lower-level individuals and the federal prosecutors are only focusing on the gangbangers and other people responsible for murder and mayhem in places like Chicago.

Here are two examples of what the revisions “fix.”

One of the fundamental flaws with the bill is that it takes a population of people who are largely very violent gangbangers, which is why federal prosecutors went after them to begin with, and offer them early release programs for undefined “productive activities” if they are designated as “low level,” a category that is never defined in the bill. Many of the worst gangbangers are given tough sentences for gun or drug trafficking because they were charged with murder but ultimately pleaded down. This is the rule, not the exception, in the federal system. Yet this bill will help the DOJ deem them to be low-level. Nobody has even considered what a Democrat administration will do with this bill.

What has supposedly been revised in a still yet-to-be-released draft is an extra provision that explicitly overrides the talking point of “low-level,” even according to proponents’ wrongheaded philosophy. The bill explicitly allowed even designated high-level offenders to participate in these undefined programs and receive early release. Proponents denied the fact vehemently but are now supposedly changing that provision. But even the revision will only prohibit them from getting full release, not from receiving home confinement for up to one third of their sentences. If anything, it’s worse, because now they explicitly admit this applies to higher-level offenders!

Think for a moment what it will look like for local law enforcement to now deal with a massive population in the coming years of tens of thousands of convicted criminals in home confinement. Some 4,000 inmates will be released immediately. The bill purposely does not appropriate more resources to monitor them because proponents want to brag about saving money. Moreover, those held under home confinement can leave their homes for many ill-defined “job-seeking activities.”

The other issue is that rather than targeting the leniencies for a very specific group of people, the bill applies the leniencies broadly and then writes specific exceptions. This revised draft supposedly expands some of the exceptions to include some of the egregious omissions like sex offenders, but still, anyone not on the exceptions list is eligible, and that includes a lot of bad people. To give you an idea of how many people could be eligible under a bill drafted backward, here is a list of those not in the exceptions, according to the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys:

The bill still expands the safety valve for some of the worst drug traffickers and allows judges to overlook many common crimes on the rap sheets of the worst gang members.

There are endless ancillary provisions creating unfunded liabilities on local law enforcement in how they confine juveniles. There are numerous concerns about all of the entitlements created for more phone and recreational time in prison without thinking through the consequences or giving prison wardens more funding, which is why the prison wardens’ union opposes this bill.

We live in grave times. Just in one day last week, 3,000 illegals were apprehended at our border. That is an annualized pace of one million! Imagine the number of drug traffickers that were enabled to cross over the border from that flow. The Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) is pumping record amounts of meth through the new border flow in El Paso. Yet rather than spending the final days of the year focusing on stopping the flow, we are now focused on legislation to release some of these very transnational traffickers and their syndicates spreading drugs and homicide in Chicago.

Rather than tenuous “fixes” to a flawed bill in order to pressure members to “get to yes,” why not first focus on getting to yes on Trump’s original promise of toughening penalties on drug traffickers and going after the cartels and gangs as well as the loopholes in the courts that allow violent career felons to get off with a slap on the wrist? How about focusing on overcriminalization of actual low-level white-collar regulatory crimes before focusing on the worst of the worst?

Here’s the question members need to ask: Now that it’s clear that proponents of this bill lied to us about grave and consequential provisions of the bill, don’t you want more time to study the ramifications of this bill and the people they apply to? What else are they lying about? And given that there are only a few more days left to the session, is this really the hill to die on?

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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.