Luke_Franzen | Getty Images
Nowhere is the hard turn to the left within our body politic so evident as in Republicans signing on to the “Willie Horton soft on crime” agenda. Despite the president’s insistence that we get tougher, not weaker, on crime and drug trafficking, Jared Kushner and the Koch-funded phony right-leaning organizations won’t stop pushing that agenda. And it appears that even the conservatives who haven’t gotten roped into this extreme and dangerous agenda are ill-quipped to push back against it. The sad reality is that it’s all about getting more felons to vote and enticing Republicans to hang themselves on their own rope.
The day after the Parkland shooting, which was perpetrated by an individual in one of these “avoid jail at all costs” programs, the Senate Judiciary committee passed a bill retroactively releasing gun felons from prison. Not to be outdone, while we are in midst of a drug and criminal alien problem – and at a time when the prison population composes the lowest share of the country since 1996 – the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill yesterday that will retroactively release thousands of criminal aliens and top-level drug traffickers.
Knowing that the House doesn’t have an appetite for the full Senate jailbreak bill, the jailbreak movement pushed H.R. 5682, sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Rep. Hakeem Jefferies, D-N.Y., and sold it as a non-jailbreak initiative to merely reintegrate former prisoners into society and get them jobs. “These targeted reforms enhance public safety by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal prison system in order to control corrections spending, manage the prison population, provide educational and vocational training to inmates so they can successfully reenter society once released, and reduce recidivism,” wrote Chairman Bob Goodlatte in a press release.
Who could oppose such a mellifluous-sounding bill? Not wanting to buck the cool kids, even conservatives were reluctant to oppose this bill. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was the only GOP “no” vote in committee. Conservatives have been misled by the talking points of the bill, which intimate that this is a post-sentencing re-entry program rather than a retroactive early release program that many conservatives rejected in the Senate bill. That is why they named it the “Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person (FIRST STEP) Act.”
Here are the facts:
- The bill allows for early release of existing federal prisoners and makes no exceptions for those who trafficked heroin and fentanyl. Imagine: While these same members are spending billions of dollars on programs misdiagnosing the drug crisis, they are simultaneously seeking to let out the most hardened and professional traffickers, even of the deadliest substances. They would be placed under an ill-defined “community supervision” program in their homes.
- The bill provides 10 days of early credit time for every 30 days of enrollment in the early release program for home confinement. Those deemed “low risk” by the attorney general will receive 15 days of early release credit for every 30 days. “Low risk is not defined” by the bill, and you can bet that a Democrat AG would interpret this very loosely. This will allow criminals to serve up to one-fourth of their prison sentences at home under vaguely defined supervision. Again, this is not a parole program at the end of their sentencing, but a way of getting out early. And there are no exceptions for the most dangerous drug traffickers. Most of the exceptions are for random crimes, such as chemical warfare and attempted assassination of some federal officials. Ironically, those trafficking fentanyl are essentially engaged in chemical warfare.
- The prisoners under home confinement may leave their homes for “job-related activities” or to participate in “evidence-based recidivism reduction programming or productive activities assigned by the System, or similar activities.” The drafters of this bill look upon these hardened federal prisoners as job-seekers, but the reality is this will allow a drug trafficker to easily continue his true job of drug trafficking while not violating the terms of the program. It’s the “Iran deal” equivalent of criminal justice.
- The existing “compassionate release program” would be expanded to include those over 60 years of age (as opposed to 65) and lower the eligibility threshold of time served from 75 percent to 67 percent. This will open the door for a number of the most hardened criminals to be let out early.
- The bill retroactively increases “good time credits” from 47 days per year to 54 days per year, providing instant release for 4,000 inmates and early release to varying degrees for tens of thousands of existing prisoners.
- The bill requires the attorney general to assess every one of the 180,000 prisoners to determine their eligibility for any of these jailbreak programs. And he must do so in just 180 days! Even setting aside the impossibility of employing resources to complete this mandate, why in the world would you rope in every single prisoner? Even those who are liberal on this issue and think there is a portion of “nonviolent” people who can be released from federal prison, the vast majority of those in federal prison, especially after Obama’s tenure and multiple rounds of releases from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, are hardened criminals.
- An incomprehensible provision of this bill requires that all prisoners be housed in a prison within 500 miles of their homes. This provision applies retroactively with no exceptions! Thousands of gang members would have to be moved and transferred to different facilities, creating a logistical and security nightmare. Many states, such as Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Idaho, don’t have federal prisons. Also, not all areas of the country have supermax security prisons. Does this mean people like El Chapo and the Boston bomber would be moved to a lower-security prison? This provision would also effectively force prisons to house local gang members together, keeping their criminal ties to each other active.
- Proponents of this bill, much like proponents of amnesty, will say that dangerous people will be weeded out from these programs. They will point to similar policies already in place at the Justice Department. But when you codify these policies into statute, you are inviting a nightmare of litigation in the courts. Every denial will face endless lawsuits in front of the most liberal judges in history.
- The bill requires the Bureau of Prisons to submit a report and evaluation of the current pilot program to treat heroin and opioid abuse in the prisons through medication-assisted treatment … at the same time the bill opens multiple avenues of release for the people peddling the heroin. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
What about the forgotten law-abiding citizens?
The entire philosophy behind the bill adopts the McGovern-Dukakis approach to crime and assumes that the most hardened federal prisoners are Girl Scouts who, if only given some more leeway, would make a life for themselves and not endanger us. This is the type of extremism I’ve witnessed in Maryland for the past decade, and I’ve watched the state become a criminal hub as a result of these policies.
The sad thing is that the jailbreak lobby is unimaginably strong both on the Left and on the “Right.” It overlaps with the illegal alien lobby. But who is standing for the average citizen?
We now have both parties crying over illegal alien amnesty but ignoring the drug-trafficking and terrorist-smuggling crisis it incentivizes. We have both parties focusing in a zero-sum game of compassion for waterboarded terrorists. We have both parties crying over a drug crisis but empowering those responsible for it.
Nobody is standing for the law-abiding taxpayer – the forgotten man who has no lobby and no voice in Washington, the family who wants to be kept safe from criminals, drug traffickers, illegal aliens, and terrorists.
President Trump promised to be that voice. During his acceptance speech at the RNC, he lamented the “[Obama] Administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” which reversed “decades of progress . . . in bringing down crime.” In an August 2016 rally in Kissimmee, Florida, President Trump said, “Some of these people are bad dudes. These are people out walking the streets. Sleep tight, folks.”
It’s time for the president to issue a veto threat and demand legislation cracking down on fentanyl traffickers, not legislation that makes the drug cartels proud.
Author: Daniel Horowitz
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.