Just a few months ago, President Trump referred to members of MS-13 as “animals” and called for the use of the death penalty to deter drug traffickers. Now, he has personally blessed the Soros-Koch pipe dream of jailbreak, piped into the White House through his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to reduce sentencing and create early-release credits for the worst drug and firearms traffickers and gangbanger in federal prison, many of whom are leaders in groups like MS-13.
The central lie being used to peddle this “criminal justice” bill is that the leniencies only apply to “low-level, nonviolent,” offenders. Talk to anyone who works in law enforcement and prosecution, and they will laugh in your face at such a scandalous suggestion, because everyone knows that most of those serving time in federal prison for drug trafficking and guns are among the worst offenders in America, often arrested initially for robbery, arson, or murder. Even more disgraceful, the bill’s backers are using the mantle of “criminal justice reform” to promote an agenda that dismantles the original criminal justice reform advocated by Ronald Reagan.
Why hasn’t there been a real legislative debate over this bill? In a legislative debate, you are no longer simply debating press releases and talking points, but actual provisions in the bill. If the bill’s backers truly only mean to give leniencies to low-level offenders, they should have no problems with proposed amendments to raise penalties on the violent offenders and bar them from the leniencies. But this bill was crafted with the opposite intention in mind.
The most important thing to understand about the First Step Act, S.3649, is that rather than narrowly and definitively defining “low-level” and targeting the early-release programs just for those individuals, the bill does the opposite. It grants early-release credits to everyone as a catch-all baseline and then writes into the statute specific exceptions. Thus, any criminal category that is not enumerated among the exceptions will be eligible for early release. The bill is artfully crafted with 11 pages of exceptions, which made it appear that many categories are excepted. But when you understand the nature of who is in federal prison and what they are actually convicted of (as opposed to initially charged with), you see that most of these exceptions are straw men.
The exceptions list those convicted of crimes related to biological and chemical warfare, kidnapping or assaulting Supreme Court justices or members of the Cabinet, slavery, terrorism, and espionage. Heck, even the exception for sabotaging pipelines and maritime vessels only applies to those convicted of such actions that “involved a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.” Even when it comes to harming federal officials, those convicted under 115(a)(1)(b) of threatening to assault, kidnap, or murder a federal judge or official would still be eligible for early-release credits if they were never convicted of actually carrying out the deed.
As Reagan planned with his Criminal Justice Reform Act of 1982, we need the exact opposite reforms. We need to make it easier to secure convictions of violent criminals. It is very difficult to convict even the most violent people when there is clear evidence. That is why many of these people either plead down to lesser charges or are only convicted of the baseline acts, but not for the murder or manslaughter related to the initial crimes. The drafters of the bill deviously crafted the exceptions to include as few people as possible. Again, the philosophy of this bill was to cast a wide net on leniencies rather than targeting them carefully, as promised in proponents’ Orwellian talking points.
Among the loopholes within the exceptions, the following individuals would be eligible for early release credits:
Obviously, the crux of the bill offers early release to almost all practical drug trafficking convictions that deal with those responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year.
The bill also added a category of “supervised release” that is undefined and has taken away discretion from the Bureau of Prisons to deny early release to those judged to be violent.
Even the few meaningful exceptions that are in the bill, such as child pornographers, were only added later, after much protest from law enforcement, which tells you that the bill’s backers had no problem giving time credits to a much broader population to begin with. Their version of nonviolent is very different from reality. As we noted before, most people in federal prison are in there for violent crimes. Therefore, since the goal of this legislation is to reduce the prison population at all costs rather than reducing crime, the jailbreak provisions must include violent criminals.
The sum total of the bill is to serve as a clever distraction and talking point while ensuring that as many people as possible are eligible for early-release credits. The fact sheet accompanying the bill states that “violent criminals and sex offenders do not qualify for pre-release custody.” Putting aside the Orwellian use of the term “pre-release custody,” this assertion is simply not true once you understand how violent criminals are usually convicted in the federal system and the nature of those in the federal system.
Just last week, a major gangbanger with La Raza Nation was sentenced to nine years in federal prison for gun and drug trafficking. Nine years is not even that much, but this is the quintessential target of federal prosecutors and the typical criminal who would be released under this bill. This gang member was responsible for gun trafficking in Chicago. It is precisely these people who wind up in the federal system. These people are killing thousands of African-Americans, both with gun trafficking and with cocaine. Yet promoters of the bill have the impudence to suggest that this bill is good for African-Americans.
Moreover, this comes at a time when much of the same political class is trying to restrain Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens. Sadly, Trump is siding with the backers of this jailbreak bill because it appears he is being lied to about the consequences of the bill.
This is what happens when a bill is crafted with no hearings and no input from prosecutors and law enforcement. It came straight from left-wing organizations funded by George Soros and Hollywood figures, cobbled together by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.