The Gang of Jailbreak is back. There’s rising crime and a feeling of angst and insecurity among the American people. Naturally, the political class has a great idea: Let’s let the criminals out of jail and lock up all the guns! While the political elites are pushing gun control, a group of bipartisan senators are working with Jared Kushner to promote jailbreak legislation and return us to the ’70s era of rampant crime.
Much like amnesty for illegals, which will never die, the “bipartisan” comprehensive jailbreak reform effort has been resurrected. For those who missed the relentless push for jailbreak during the last two years of the Obama administration, “criminal justice reform” is essentially code for undoing the tough-on-crime sentencing laws that helped precipitate the miraculous decline in crime over the past two decades. Now, with an already-strong trend towards de-incarceration and with crime, not surprisingly, back on the rise, liberals think it’s a great time to let out more dangerous criminals.
Last week, a bipartisan group of senators wrote an op-ed kicking off an effort to “build on the most sweeping criminal justice reform effort in a generation.” Kushner held a meeting with Sens. Durbin, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, and Lee to discuss the next steps. Much like the Gang of Eight amnesty group, these senators use straw-man arguments of low-level criminals sitting in jail forever as a Trojan horse to deconstruct the Reagan-era tough-on-crime laws that took criminals off the streets and out of reach of liberal judges.
The truth behind incarceration and the push for jailbreak
As is the case with the push for amnesty, “criminal justice reform” for Democrats is all about creating more Democrat voters. Sen. Cory Booker, an ardent proponent of jailbreak legislation, basically admitted as much last year. It’s also no coincidence that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order before the 2016 elections restoring voting rights for 206,000 convicted felons.
Unfortunately, some Republicans like Chuck Grassley and Mike Lee have gotten roped into this effort. Some of it comes from misplaced priorities and pseudo-compassion arguments similar to those promoting “Dreamers.” Some of it comes from the Koch brothers and their new-age social justice version of libertarianism. But it is all built upon faulty premises about the size of the prison population, crime rates, and myths of “low-level drug offenses.” (Here is my fact sheet from last year taking a part the effort piece by piece.) Sadly, Sen. Grassley is now propagating the very arguments he used to ridicule in pursuit of more leniency in the criminal justice system.
The reality is that the prison population peaked over a decade ago, and thanks to prison releases on both the federal and state levels, the incarcerated population is declining. In fact, despite the claims of the political class, the prison population is declining disproportionately among black males. In addition, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), federal prosecutions have dropped 29.1 percent over the past five years. Not surprisingly, crime is up again. As we reported last month, the new FBI crime statistics demonstrate why now is the worst time to promote jailbreak legislation and empower the “leniency-industrial complex,” as Mr. Grassley used to call it.
The original Senate bill from 2015 would have reduced many mandatory sentencing directives for hardened federal criminals. As we noted at the time, most serving time for drug sentences in federal prison are either illegal aliens or big-time drug dealers (not recreational marijuana users) who are associated with other violent crimes. The bill also contained numerous leniencies for those who committed crimes with firearms. Some of these same senators are promoting gun control!
Releasing murderers and the lesson from California’s jailbreak
A big features of the original bill and of the new bill introduced by Durbin and Grassley is leniency for those convicted of crimes as juveniles. A number of those who would be eligible for juvenile sentencing leniencies under Sec. 208 of the Senate bill are MS-13 gang members. An MS-13 member who was convicted of murder when he was 17 years old and has served 20 years in federal prison could be let out on the streets at the stroke of a pen. Other GOP senators including Jeff Flake, Roy Blunt, and Tim Scott signed onto this legislation.
Sadly, these ideas were already tried at a state level with disastrous results. 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.
California is one of the worst offenders. As part of a series of jailbreak proposals, the state passed Prop 47, which dramatically reduced the penalty for drug offenses and property crimes. What are the results? Heather Mac Donald compiled the following data:
In the city of Los Angeles, violent crime rose nearly 20 percent through August 22, 2015, compared with the same period in 2014; property crime was up 11 percent. Shooting victims were up 27 percent. Arrests were down 9 percent. In Santa Ana, felony crime was up 33 percent in May 2015, compared with May 2014. Violent crime was up 28 percent, property crime up 43 percent, and robbery up 89 percent. In nearby Costa Mesa, violent crime increased 47 percent, and theft was up 44 percent, through late July, compared with the same period in 2014. In San Francisco, violent crime was up 13 percent, and property crime up 22 percent, through June 2015 over the previous year.”
Ironically, prison costs have increased in California, even as the state released 30,000 prisoners over the past three years. The moral of the story? When you pursue reduction in prison population at the expense of public safety, you get neither.
Now California has passed SB 394, which will re-open sentencing for juveniles convicted of murder and serving life in prison without parole. Those who already served 25 years could be eligible for parole with a new hearing, similar to what the Gang of Jailbreak is proposing on a federal level. As you can imagine, these are the worst offenders, who have only one outcome if let out on the streets. This means people like Nathan Ramazzini, who brutally beat Erik Ingebretsen to death in Calusa, California, 20 years ago could walk the streets within a few years.
The family of Erik Ingebretsen is frantically trying to get Gov. Brown to veto the California bill and reached out to me to raise awareness of SB 394. Much like the issue of illegal immigration, where the political class only focuses on the “best of the best” illegal aliens and ignores the victims, they ignore the pleas from family members of domestic murder victims and focus solely on the “plight” of the criminal. “What a slap in the face this has been for my family. Our one justice was the fact that we never had to worry about him again,” said Devin Lombardi, the sister of the victim. “Nathan was a serial killer caught early — whether at 16 or now 37, his brain is what it is: psychotic and dangerous.”
“Criminals’ basic rights of life should never be prioritized over victims’ families,” said Emily Collins, a cousin of Erik Ingebretsen, in an email exchange. No murderer should be let out of prison, according to Collins. “I think the biggest flaw in the lawmakers wanting to let murderers out of jail is to give them back their basic rights of life, liberty and pursuits of happiness. In murdering someone you are taking away their rights to life liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
Supporters of federal jailbreak legislation will tell you they are only focusing on “low-level” crimes, but they have already admitted that their bill will result in Willie Horton-style releases. Most criminals in federal facilities are even worse, on average, than those in state prisons. Plus focusing on drug laws and other crimes is just the first play.
Defenders of the bill will claim that nothing is automatic and everything will be reviewed by federal district judges. Yes, the same judges in states like California who are creating rights for illegal aliens.
Confiscate guns, release criminals
Isn’t it tragic how the entire political class is collectively wringing their hands over a government solution to random mass acts of mass murder, like the Las Vegas massacre, which are almost impossible to prevent, yet they refuse to confront the broader trend of increased crime, which simply involves keeping known criminals off the streets? Ironically, Las Vegas is experiencing a growth in violent crime, in part because of the outgrowth of crime from California’s Prop 47. At the time, Prop 47 was sold as the quintessential fix for “excessive” sentencing against “low-level” crimes, but it has resulted in a huge spike in crime, even spilling over to Nevada.
But fear not, California is getting tough on the real crimes — threatening with jail time those who don’t use “proper” pronouns for those afflicted with gender dysphoria. Maybe the Gang of Jailbreak can adopt this lovely idea from California as well.
The tragic irony of policies promoted by the likes of Dick Durbin is that, if he had his way, the American people will be left without guns to defend themselves when the inevitable crime wave grows as a result of his criminal justice proposals. Too bad so many D.C. conservatives have bought into his worldview.
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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.