© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Horowitz: US Sentencing Commission expands jailbreak of violent criminals under Trump-era First Step Act
MivPiv/Getty Images

Horowitz: US Sentencing Commission expands jailbreak of violent criminals under Trump-era First Step Act

We tried to warn you in 2018. Republicans wasted the final few months of their national trifecta control of Washington promoting Soros’ de-incarceration agenda, culminating with Trump signing the First Step Act at the behest of Kim Kardashian. They told us the early release provisions would be super limited and only for those inmates who were rigorously reformed. Instead, they have released thousands of hard-core criminals without any so-called rehabilitation programs. Now the U.S. Sentencing Commission is applying one of the provisions for compassionate release retroactive to those already in prison. This will flood the courts with endless requests for early release at a time of record crime in major cities.

Headed by radical U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves of Mississippi, the seven-member U.S. Sentencing Commission voted earlier this month to make certain early release provisions of the First Step Act even more lenient. Specifically, this provides an entirely new avenue (without congressional approval, of course) for career violent criminals serving more than 10 years to assert a “gross disparity” between their long sentences and those sentenced under a change in law as fulfillment of the statute’s “extraordinary and compelling” reason to request compassionate release. This will allow all the liberal judges to reduce sentences if they find them, in the words of the proposed amendment, “inequitable in light of changes in law.”

Now, some of you might think we could benefit from this when it comes to January 6 prisoners getting 10-20 years for crimes for which others wouldn’t serve a day in prison. However, we all know that this leniency will not be directed toward those people, but rather toward violent gun and drug traffickers plaguing inner cities like Chicago. This provision would apply retroactively, enabling thousands of lawyers to flood the already stressed court system with early release requests. The senators, when debating the bill, explicitly promised that the provision would not apply retroactively, which is largely how they were able to get the bill passed.

This proposal will allow the criminal defense industry to overwhelm prosecutors and induce them to put up weak defenses of the existing sentencing. This has already happened under the other provisions of the bill for early release. An analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times shows that judges are signing off on the release of career criminals, including top gang leaders, much to the consternation of local prosecutors who are at their wits' end trying to stem the tide of gun violence in Chicago.

The Sun-Times analyzed 200 cases of early release in Chicago under the First Step Act and found that "more than 60 percent" of those who applied were granted sentence reductions by judges, "including some of the nation's most notorious criminals." Who are these people? Unless they are conservatives from January 6, they are not low-level at all. It’s only the worst gang leaders who wind up serving long federal sentences, often after pleading down murder charges to gun or drug charges. At a minimum, it will unleash a torrent of professional drug traffickers at a time of the worst fentanyl trafficking crisis.

How fortuitous for this USSC change to occur right after a Rand Paul staffer was almost killed by a career violent criminal and sex trafficker who was released early under the First Step Act. Crime is also skyrocketing particularly in D.C. and around Capitol Hill. Even Democrats, who face personal security problems around the Capitol, are demanding action on crime, but it seems lost on them that they unleashed this entire de-incarceration agenda fueling the uncontrollable street crime. They all promised us at the time that the releases would be carefully targeted to the most reformed prisoners after completing magical anti-recidivism courses. But the reality is that they were pushing this bill precisely for the purpose of dramatically reducing the numbers. It was always about de-incarceration at all costs, and most of those in federal prison are career, violent, unreformed inmates.

In 2018, Conservative Review was the only scorecard that scored against the bill. At the time we warned the following about this “anti-recidivism” agenda, which was all a smokescreen for mass de-incarceration:

Proponents of the bill say that convicts must participate in recidivism reduction programs in order to obtain early release, but these programs are ill-defined as “productive activities.” Congress delegated the design of these programs to the administrative state, abdicating its responsibility to make clear laws to unelected bureaucrats who change priorities and policies with every new presidential administration. There are already numerous recidivism reduction programs that are either mandatory or have high rates of participation, yet nothing in this bill ensures that prisoners have to engage in anything more substantial than what is already law, much less proven activities that will reform them.

A new Government Accountability Office report makes it clear that the Bureau of Prisons has not tracked fulfillment of obligation before awarding good time credits, nor does it regularly assess risk of release. They also make it clear that it’s not even clear these “evidence-based” programs even exist, and if they do, there are no goals, metrics, or verification that the prisoners even participated.

“BOP based the interim procedure on a presumption of participation, which is not based on actual program participation or an incarcerated person’s needs,” revealed the GAO. “According to BOP officials, this aligned with the final rule that indicated that eligible incarcerated people were to be awarded a presumption of participation for time that they were incarcerated from December 21, 2018, through January 14, 2020.”

So they just presumed they participated in these mythical programs and then applied the good time credits to anyone theoretically eligible. And they did so immediately:

Within 10 days of the First Step Act Time Credits final rule being published (between January 19, 2022, and January 29, 2022), BOP applied the interim procedure and subsequently transferred 1,090 incarcerated people to supervised release and 117 incarcerated people to prerelease custody, according to BOP documentation. A senior BOP official stated in July 2022 that BOP applied First Step Act time credits to all eligible incarcerated people’s sentences that met the criteria for the priority cohort. By October 2022, BOP released 10,239 eligible incarcerated people under the First Step Act ...

In other words, the entire promise of rigorous rehabilitation being a requirement for early release was a lie.

If Republicans were true to their campaign promise of combatting crime, they would come back for a “Second Step Act” to actually ensure that the messaging behind the original bill is codified in the actual language of the statute. At a minimum, they must disapprove this new U.S. Sentencing Commission rule that will flood our court system with requests for early release for the most hardened federal criminals. They have until November to disapprove this rule before it is implemented.

It will be very telling to see which Republicans are willing to run on this issue and recognize that passage of this bill was a mistake.

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?
Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz

Blaze Podcast Host

Daniel Horowitz is the host of “Conservative Review with Daniel Horowitz” and a senior editor for Blaze News.
@RMConservative →