The entire premise of the bipartisan jailbreak movement powered by the leniency-victim complex is built on a lie. It’s not just that these views on crime are dangerous and already leading to more violence in some major cities. It’s that the movement’s entire basis of “too many people in prison” is 10 years too late. The trend has already reversed, the pendulum has already swung too much the other way, and any further effort to injudiciously implement more leniency will erase any last vestige of success in combatting crime since 1993.
Incarceration rates at two-decade lows
According to a brand-new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of 2016 the rate of active incarceration rate in this country was at its lowest level since 1996, and the percentage of those in the correctional system overall (including supervised parole) was lower in 2016 than at any time since 1993. In other words, almost the entire baseline increase since 1993 that the left- and “right”-leaning think tanks bemoan, for better or for worse, has been wiped out. Yet they are still promoting multiple leniencies on the front and back ends of the system as if it is 2008 – at the peak of incarceration. This is overcorrection, to say the least.
Since peaking last decade, the number of people in the criminal justice correctional system has dropped for nine consecutive years. The decline began later in the federal prison system than in the state prisons. At the federal level, the population has declined since 2010. However, less than 10 percent of the incarcerated population is in the federal system, and a many of those incarcerated are foreign nationals locked up for immigration charges.
The entire effort of Jarred Kushner, George Soros, and the Koch brothers to promote more jailbreak, particularly at the federal level, makes no sense at this point. President Obama already issued clemencies of some sort to almost 2,000 individuals, most of whom who were in prison for drug trafficking dangerous substances, often with the use of a firearm. If even he passed on freeing the remainder of the population, you can rest assured they are dangerous criminals.
Now is the most bizarre time to push leniencies, ten years into the trend of a declining prison population and a reversal on crime rates. After plummeting for 23 years, violent crime rose in 2015 and again in 2016, marring the only positive social trajectory we have witnessed over the past generation. According to the FBI, violent crime rose by 4.1 percent and the murder rate spiked by 8.6 percent in 2016 — the greatest single-year increase in 25 years.
While this doesn’t prove causation of jailbreak leading to violent crime, as some of it has to do with the “Ferguson effect” war on cops, it does show how the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction to sustain a one-sided debate over leniencies. A Bureau of Justice Statistics study, which tracked 404,638 prisoners released from state prisons in 2005, found that 76.6 percent were re-arrested within five years. The highly touted success on the state level that is used to promote federal jailbreak is nothing short of a disaster.
The correlation to the debate over the “opioid crisis” is remarkable. As we noted in our series on the truth about the drug overdose crisis, politicians are acting as if prescription drugs are the main cause of the problem and prescription painkillers are out of control. In fact, prescriptions peaked in 2009 and have plummeted dramatically to 15-year lows in recent years. Much as with jailbreak, our leaders are misdiagnosing the issue, and any further effort to decrease prescriptions in this climate of ubiquitous cheap illicit drugs will make things worse.
Letting out drug traffickers during most deadly fentanyl trafficking epidemic
The misdiagnosis of the drug crisis ties in very closely to the debate over the prison population and “criminal justice reform.” For years, the D.C. smart set has used false messaging to promote jailbreak by asserting that our prisons were full of “low-level, non-violent drug offenders.” They conjured up this notion that our prisons were bursting at the seams with people caught smoking a joint. The reality is that most of them were inherently violent drug traffickers responsible for killing thousands of Americans and many other crimes that never resulted in convictions or were pled down during trial. This is especially true on the federal level. Even on the state level, only 15 percent are in for drug charges, most of them for trafficking.
But this debate was all before the recent overdose epidemic. What we have going on in this country today is not your parents’ marijuana days. Since 2014, well over 100,000 Americans died from illicit drugs, mainly heroin and fentanyl but also from meth and cocaine. The latest epidemic is fentanyl-laced cocaine. This is no longer a debate over drugs; this is chemical warfare.
In his latest virtue-signaling campaign, Jared Kushner met with Kim Kardashian to discuss a potential pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, sitting in prison for 21 years so far for drug trafficking. “Isn’t that a long time for some dumb drug charge?” you might be wondering? Well, if even Obama passed her up for a clemency, given his views on the issue, you can imagine she is no Girl Scout.
Johnson was the leader of a drug ring trafficking cocaine, which was one of the largest ever prosecuted in that district in Tennessee. According to the Sixth Circuit court opinion, Alice was the one who had contacts with Colombian drug lords and trafficked thousands of kilograms of cocaine. She was not a low-level drug mule. She was likely responsible for countless deaths.
What happens when you let these people out on the streets? The Left would like us to focus on “nonviolent drug offenses,” but look at the hundreds of thousands of dead people. That is your “opioid crisis.” One has to wonder if, aside from the open-borders policies, Obama’s release of so many professional drug traffickers right at the time of the surge in drug trafficking contributed to the crisis.
Hypocritical and dangerous mix of priorities on public safety
The criminal justice “reformers” thought they had an impregnable talking point in focusing on “those locked up for smoking weed,” but they should hang their heads in shame as tens of thousands drop like flies from the most powerful drugs we’ve ever seen. What sort of sentence do they support for fentanyl traffickers who are responsible for countless deaths? What about carfentanil, which is essentially a weapon of mass destruction and 10,000 times more potent than morphine?
Amazingly, some of the same politicians who wring their hands over the “opioid crisis” are the ones who want to wipe out drug trafficking convictions rather than ratchet them up. They are also the same politicians who want to exacerbate the border and sanctuary crisis driving the problem while treating doctors like criminals. Also, the same politicians who want to “do something” about Parkland miss the basic facts that their jailbreak movement, particularly as it relates to juveniles, is what ensured Nikolas Cruz was not locked up and is what will ensure there are more cases like him.
The smart-set view on public safety can be summed up as follows: Keep borders open and sanctuary cities thriving, let criminals (including gun felons) out of jail, drop mandatory sentencing on drug traffickers, go light on juvenile criminals, and declare war on guns and doctor’s prescriptions.
With the prison population going down, crime spiking in some major cities, and a drug crisis beyond anything we have ever witnessed, some of the criminal justice deformers should do a gut-check as to whether they picked the wrong issue and whether they are 10 years too late, when the pendulum of policy and its devastating results have already refuted their entire premise.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.