President Trump is getting input on criminal justice from Jared Kushner, Van Jones, and Kim Kardashian, and they are successfully changing his views on the issue. Who is speaking for victims of crime, for law enforcement, and for the simple facts of crime and incarceration that are being ignored by the leniency movement of the elites? Senator John Kennedy, R-La., may just have taken up that mantle.
Yesterday, Sen. Kennedy sent a letter to President Trump warning that some of the efforts to promote early release from federal prison echo the failures of similar initiatives implemented in his state of Louisiana. In his estimation, “People are being killed because of the so-called criminal justice reforms that were put in place.”
Kennedy is referring to the Justice Reinvestment Act, one of the many Koch-Soros efforts in the states to reduce the prison population at all costs with no regard to the effects on crime, the rap sheets of these individuals, or how the mechanics of the existing weak justice system allow so many violent career criminals to be convicted only of “lesser” crimes. The bill in Louisiana was signed into law almost a year ago, and it seriously downgraded many sentences, ensured many new criminals are never sent to prison, and released a number of people early into home confinement or similar arrangements.
However, as Kennedy observes, like every other predecessor and like the federal initiatives currently on the table, the unicorn premise of thousands of loving, “nonviolent” people populating our prisons is built on a total lie. As such, many very violent people were released. He observes that a whopping 22 percent of those released were re-arrested within just a year and that they are on track for a 50 percent recidivism rate over five years in the Bayou State.
Kennedy correctly uses the measure of re-arrests for recidivism. Part of the problem these days is that the same people who promote jailbreak have also promoted a culture in every corner of the justice system to avoid prison time at all costs. Thus, they measure recidivism by the number of people who wind up in prison, not by the number of people who re-offend. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can achieve a zero percent recidivism rate by abolishing prisons or just not sentencing anyone to jail time.
One such example Kennedy gives is Tyrone White, who was released from prison as a “nonviolent” offender. He immediately robbed two men at gunpoint after his release. What gives? He wasn’t really nonviolent. He had 60 prior arrests on his rap sheet! Yet because it is so hard to land a conviction (which is why we need very different “criminal justice reforms”), offenders are often convicted for lesser crimes. However, rap sheets are factored in during sentencing, which is why there are some people who seem to have longer sentences, despite the nature of their latest conviction.
The problem in Louisiana cuts to the core of the philosophical flaw in jailbreak. Proponents are exclusively focused on the incarceration rate as the problem in itself, not the crime rate. They measure success as fewer people in prison and failure as more people in prison. Even before the 2017 legislation, where supporters brag of a 42 percent reduction in incarceration for “nonviolent” drug offenders, the prison population had been plummeting since 2012, as part of the nationwide trend. Guess what else happened since 2012. Violent crime began to rise, reversing a two-decade trend of declining crime.
According to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, violent crime was cut in half in Louisiana from its peak in the early ’90s to the lowest point in 2012. The violent crime rate in 2012 – the year of peak incarceration – was 496.3 per 100,000. The rate has gone up every year and in 2016 stood 14 percent higher than in 2012. One can only imagine the crime rate over the past year since the mass jailbreak, but the statistics won’t come out for another two years.
We are promised utopian outcomes of careful consideration and that “reform” legislation will only include those who deserve to be released. But as Kennedy notes, in Louisiana, those who were released early “weren’t vetted by the probation and parole boards for their threat to public safety.”
These concerns echo those raised by the Department of Justice concerning recent federal proposals. In a letter to the White House, the DOJ predicted that the multiple requirements to add up and assess good time credits, the ambiguity of who is considered nonviolent, new leniency opportunities for prisoners, and more avenues to file motions with the courts will paralyze the justice system. This is exactly how the default position is always to err on the side of releasing more people, as we see from Louisiana.
In his letter, Senator Kennedy shows other examples of those who were released from prison and within a few months racked up multiple arrests for battery, theft, and murder. Those were people in state prison. It’s important to keep in mind that, on average, the population in the federal prisons, especially those who remain after multiple rounds of releases by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, are largely more violent. Federal prosecutors will often go after people who have escaped justice in the state system and will hit them for federal drug or firearms charges when they know they have been career criminals and are prone to commit robbery and even murder.
Senator Kennedy’s office had not returned my request for comment at the time of this writing, but it’s very likely that his letter was aimed at today’s meeting between Trump and Louisiana Governor Edward Bell. The liberal Democrat is meeting with the president in New Jersey to pitch him on how Louisiana’s jailbreak should be a model of success for the federal system.
The president is now being convinced to add to the existing jailbreak bill and make it even more liberal to placate Sen. Grassley’s demands for more front-end sentencing reduction in addition to the existing back-end early releases. Thus far, in one of the most inexplicable acts of Trump’s presidency, the warnings of nine law enforcement groups about the dangerous and unworkable provisions, as well as the DOJ’s concern about the number of criminal aliens who will be released, have fallen on deaf ears.
With Republicans bleeding suburban voters headed into November, they have an Orwellian approach to applying an electoral tourniquet. At a time when they can slam Democrats for rising crime, a top concern of these very swing voters and a self-professed concern of the president himself, they instead want to help Democrats pass the very initiatives responsible for it. At least one Republicans is willing to ignore the groupthink and speak the truth. Will there be others?
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.