Something funny happens when you actually take time to analyze a gravely transformative piece of legislation. It’s something that not a single member of the House who voted for the aptly named First Step Act got a chance to do: You understand the consequences of the bill.
Proponents of the bill, many of whom are pro-illegal alien to begin with, defensively insist that because deportable aliens (both illegal immigrants and criminal legal immigrants) are not eligible for good time credits, they will not be among those released into home confinement or let out early under the provisions of this bill. The problem is that Section 402, which is extremely dangerous as it pertains to the entire prison population, will mandate that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) release a number of criminal aliens into home confinement at some point. This is what happens when no section-by-section summary of the bill is released, no hearings are held, and no amendments are made eligible.
Under current law, the Bureau of Prisons may release a prisoner into home confinement for the final six months or 10 percent of the sentence (whichever is less). Section 402 of the First Step Act mandates that BOP shall release anyone “with lower risk levels and lower needs on home confinement” for that period of time. The bill never defines “lower” risk, which to begin with is subjective, and which to proponents of this bill includes everyone convicted of drug trafficking and firearms violations. Even the early time credits portion of the bill still applies to armed robbers as long as they were never convicted for any death resulting from that robbery.
Therefore, it’s quite evident that any attorney general not named Jeff Sessions will deem tens of thousands of hardened heroin traffickers (who were often arrested for murder or robbery but were never convicted) as “lower risk” (notice how they are designated as “lower” and not “low” risk). But it’s worse than that. Some will say that a number of criminals, especially criminal aliens, just will not be designated at all. Well, the attorney general must issue some sort of assessment over all 180,000 prisoners within six months. This provision of the bill in itself is ludicrous, unfeasible, and wastes DOJ resources, but nonetheless it requires the DOJ to make a risk assessment for everyone, including illegal aliens. You can only imagine the one-directional pressure and scrutiny from the dozens of jailbreak groups demanding the loosest interpretation of risk assessment as possible.
The provision of the bill releasing tens of thousands of violent criminals into home confinement is bad enough for non-illegal aliens. As Thomas Ascik, a career prosecutor in North Carolina, warned, “ABC documented 50 cases nationwide of murders committed by prisoners who were supposed to be confined to home with ankle bracelets.” Home confinement is a joke, and this bill does not put the necessary resources into making it secure precisely because proponents want the talking point of saving money. But home confinement, as they well know, is even more costly than incarceration if done right. You can imagine the hardened criminals who will now be out under such a tenuous arrangement.
In my home county, a juvenile under home confinement went out and murdered a cop last month. Often, those on home detention commit violent crimes. Last year, one high-profile criminal was finally caught after 25 years of committing crime since being released into a halfway house. Without any statutory definition of “lower level,” it is simply legislative malpractice for anyone to vote for section 402 of this bill.
This brings us back to immigration. Under current law, home confinement at the end of the prison sentence is elective, so the BOP has elected not to make deportable aliens eligible for this arrangement because they are an obvious flight risk. Thus, at the end of their sentences, the U.S. marshals transfer them over to ICE custody for deportation proceedings.
Under the proposed law, on the other hand, the BOP must release anyone designated as “lower level” risk into home confinement. This part of the bill, unlike the time credits for “recidivism” programs, made no exceptions for deportable aliens. Such a provision was in the original bill but was removed. Members of Congress didn’t bother reading either version of the bill. The original bill required the DOJ to transfer any deportable over to ICE, and that would have covered those released under section 402. Without that provision, there is nothing stopping the release of illegals under the “lower level risk” provision.
We already know that these same advocacy groups on the Left and the phony Right view both drug trafficking and immigration crimes as “lower level.” They are quite passionate about that. This means that a goodly number of criminal aliens in prison would easily be deemed lower level. Again, that would be an inconsequential distinction if they were to be immediately transferred to ICE and deported. But once they are let into home confinement, raise your hands if you think they will ever wind up being deported.
Consider the killer of Kate Steinle, Jose Garcia Zarate. He was acquitted on state murder and manslaughter charges, but the feds are prosecuting him for gun laws and re-entry. Both these crimes are deemed as low-level by proponents of jailbreak, even though we know he murdered Kate Steinle.
This is the big lie about the nature of those in federal prison. Aside from a large contingent of foreign nationals who should be deported, the federal population includes many career criminals. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 72.8 percent of federal offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2016 had been convicted for prior offenses, at an average rate of 6.1 crimes per criminal. Many of them have been arrested for or even convicted of violent crimes in the state system. Garcia Zarate is the quintessential profile of a federal prisoner.
Sadly, the entire jailbreak effort is built upon a lie. Proponents won’t even admit that illegal aliens are being released by this bill after they purposely removed a section of the bill blocking it.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.