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What happened to the “law and order” President? Some on the right are asking how we went from getting tougher on crime to suddenly endorsing a bill that gets weaker on crime on the front-end AND the back-end. Unfortunately, it’s only some on the right. Most seem to be buying into this new brand of conservatism just as they bought into “fair trade” and tariffs as their new foreign trade mantra.
If this isn’t what the President promised, then what is it? We can say many things about President Trump’s demeanor and style, but one thing that’s been impressive about his administration so far is that they’ve been more consistent than most when it comes to keeping promises. This is one of the first 180’s the administration has performed. And don’t get fooled into thinking this isn’t a 180. Do you remember at any point during his campaign when he said, “Let’s release current criminals early and reduce sentencing on future criminals!”
I don’t remember hearing that at any MAGA rallies, either.
So what’s the motivation here? We can look at individual lawmakers and see why they may be surprisingly accepting of this legislation. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), for example, has personal experiences as a prosecutor that drove him to the conclusion that he needed to support the bill.
For example, when I served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Salt Lake City, Weldon Angelos — a young father of two with no criminal record — was convicted of selling three dime bags of marijuana to a paid informant over a short period of time.
These were not violent crimes. No one was hurt. But because Angelos had been in possession of a gun at the time he sold the drugs (a gun which was neither brandished nor discharged in connection with the offense), the judge was forced by federal law to give him a 55-year prison sentence. The average federal sentence for assault is just two years. The average murderer only gets 15 years. While acknowledging the obvious excessiveness of the sentence, the judge explained that the applicable federal statutes gave him no authority to impose a less-severe prison term, noting that “only Congress can fix this problem.”
To be clear, what Senator Lee is describing is the front-end of the problem. Yes, there are certain mandated sentencing requirements that need to be addressed. But to do this properly, you don’t unleash 4,000+ hardened criminals as a result. Fix sentencing problems for the future, then allow those who would have been affected by reduced mandatory sentencing appeal their individual cases. In light of the new sentencing requirements, judges can take a case-by-case look to identify people, such as the one Senator Lee describes, who should be eligible for early release. Don’t just open the floodgates.
Other conservatives who support the bill, such as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), are taking a Libertarian stance against victimless crimes. But there’s a flaw with their thinking as well. Even if one believes drugs should be legal and their sale should be regulated, that doesn’t change the fact that when these criminals committed their crimes, drugs were illegal. They weren’t acting on their civic duty to protest an abusive system. They were selling illegal drugs, often while carrying firearms. Many of them avoided being labeled as violent criminals simply because the opportunity hadn’t presented itself at the time they committed their crimes.
Releasing lawbreakers because one doesn’t believe the law is just doesn’t change the fact that they broke the law. If you’re going to change the laws first, fine. But don’t release criminals ahead of changes in the law.
Many proponents of criminal justice reform look at the costs associated with running overpopulated prisons as the reason for their support. Again, this is backwards. The prisons are overpopulated in large part because we’re not deporting enough criminal illegal immigrants. If you remove them first, then assess the costs, you’ll find prison overpopulation mitigated and costs dramatically reduced.
Conservative Review’s Daniel Horowitz did an amazing writeup yesterday on the subject. It’s one of several listed by the site as “must reads” before making up your own mind on the topic.
Congress and President Donald Trump are making a big push for “criminal justice reform” legislation, but there are problems with the First Step Act.
We’ll keep updating this page as news develops, so be sure to check back with Conservative Review for updates on the bipartisan jailbreak bill.
With the President behind it, many Republicans will now believe they support it, too. Before you let someone else make up your mind, you should look into these “reforms” for yourself. Law and order are still important even if its alleged proponents abandon it.
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