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Stop calling it prison reform. It’s a prison RELEASE bill

Conservative Review

If you call a piece of legislation “reform,” do basic facts suddenly not matter?

When it comes to jailbreak legislation, as long as you refer to it as “reform,” the fact that there is nothing reform-minded in the bill other than sentencing reductions and early-release credits for the most hardened criminals in the country doesn’t seem to matter. As late as March 10, 2015, before he inexplicably flipped on the issue, Sen. Chuck Grassley referred to this very bill as “Orwellian,” promoted by “the leniency-industrial complex” simply “as a matter of ideology” because “facts do not matter to them.” He and his friends should now take his own advice.

Advocates of sentencing reductions and early-release programs for drug and gun traffickers argue passionately for their cause. Then, suddenly, when they introduce the actual legislation, precipitating a more public debate on the issue, they become bashful about their cause and deny that their cause is even in the bill. Thus, “it’s not amnesty, it’s comprehensive immigration reform,” has now proceeded to “it’s not prison release, it’s prison reform.” Much as proponents of amnesty actually said their bill was border enforcement and that anyone opposing it was voting against border security, proponents of the Soros-Koch-Van Jones jailbreak are saying that this bill is tough on crime!

For several years, Republican supporters of the Soros philosophy on crime have passionately argued for sentencing reductions (Senate judiciary bill) and early-release credits (House bill) because they believe too many people are in prison for too long for drug and firearms charges. So they introduced these two bills and merged them into one. Then, the minute we call them out for promoting jailbreak for such people, they suddenly look at us as if we are from Mars. “No, this is not an early-release bill; this is reform!”

Proponents are suggesting that this bill merely reforms some programs to educate prisoners and has nothing to do with early release. Sure, early release is not automatic, because prisoners must apply for it. But the bill requires nothing more of the prisoners to receive sentencing reductions and early-release credits that, when put together, will reduce time spent in prison by at least 50 percent for repeat drug traffickers with significant rap sheets for other crimes in the state system.  And much as with amnesty, where there was nothing reform-minded in the bill but only straight-up amnesty, this bill is straight-up leniency for everyone with no stringency or even restructuring of the criminal code and fixing of the overcriminalization problem of junk crimes that we all agree are dumb.

As with the Gang of Eight amenesty bill, proponents have carefully crafted exceptions to the jailbreak and use them as talking points for why the bill is not jailbreak. They say this is all about nonviolent, first-time offenders serving 300 years in prison, just like amnesty is all about Rhodes scholars and Navy SEALs. But in reality, the entire structure of the bill itself refutes this talking point. Here are several general observations about the bill:

  • As I noted earlier this month, the bill was written with a catch-all baseline to include all federal prisoners in the early-release programs, then targeted a few people for exclusion from those programs. If the bill’s authors were honest about their agenda, they would have targeted only those whom they felt were legitimately low-level, spelled out those categories of offenses clearly, and kept the rest ineligible. Even if we have some disagreement over a small portion of the prison population, we can all agree that the federal system is loaded with the worst of the worst. Why include them in the baseline of so many of the leniencies? And indeed, the DOJ confirmed for Senator Tom Cotton’s office yesterday that those serving time for failure to register as a sex offender, importing aliens for prostitution, female genital mutilation, and assault with intent to commit rape or sexual abuse will all be eligible for the early-release credits.
  • The bill is written like a press release, not a statute. It uses Orwellian language to describe the programs. If a prisoner participates in an “evidence-based recidivism reduction program” absurdly described as having “been shown by empirical evidence to reduce recidivism,” he or she is eligible. There is no legal standard to this, such as the typical language of “clear and convincing evidence.” Everyone is eligible based on the programs they already must participate in. These very groups writing this bill have endless “research” ready-made “indicating” that anything they do will “likely” reduce recidivism. Section 102(h)(5) mandates that the DOJ enter into partnership with the very “nonprofits” and “institutions of higher education” that are poisoning the minds of prisoners and teaching them that society failed them. The very rent-seekers in government advocating for this bill will be the ones administering it.
  • Worse, the bill has a second way to qualify – to participate in “productive activity,” defined as a “group or individual activity that is designed to allow prisoners determined as having a low or no risk of recidivating to remain productive.” They could participate in workshops on hating the police or they could play basketball and lift weights. No serious human being, even those committed to leniencies in sentencing, would have written a bill this vacuous unless they are committed to casting the widest net on jailbreak.
  • Not only are they eligible for home confinement, which is an utter joke, especially given that this bill purposely fails to allocate the resources, the bill creates a new category of “supervised release.” That is never defined in the bill, even though we are dealing with some of the most dangerous criminals; 4,000 will be eligible to be released immediately with no understanding of how local law enforcement will deal with such an unprecedented deluge of career criminals re-entering.
  • The bill requires the DOJ to assess all 180,000 federal inmates in terms of risk status within 180 days. This is ludicrous given the number of violent offenders and the fact that at least a quarter of the population is composed of criminal aliens. The Fraternal Order of Police called this provision unworkable. Why wouldn’t you simply target the specific categories of convicts that you want assessed?
  • While the standards of eligibility for release and access to programs cast a wide net and are ill-defined, the standard for DOJ or prison officials to deny the leniencies are tight and defined with a rigid legal standard. If a prison warden wants to place a hold on the release of an inmate into “supervised release,” he must show “by clear and convincing evidence that the prisoner should not be transferred into prerelease custody.” They use the legal standard of “clear and convincing evidence,” in addition to prohibiting BOP officials from using the nature of the conviction or behavior from or prior to the conviction. In other words, almost anyone will be able to litigate their way into early release through the courts. Again, take note of the fact that they don’t exempt any sort of conviction from being used as evidence. If this is about first-time, nonviolent offenders, why not limit it to those individuals? Obviously, because there aren’t too many of those in federal prison.
  • The bill requires the BOP to establish a “procedure to restore time credits that a prisoner lost as a result of a rule violation.” Now the onus is on law enforcement to restore lost credits due to bad behavior, not upon the criminal to actually earn them. No exceptions are made to this provision to more narrowly target a specific population.
  • The much-forgotten sentencing reduction portion of the bill expands the safety valve, which was designed to allow first-time offenders to escape the mandatories, to repeat offenders. A number of career drug traffickers and other people serving time for assault in the state system will now be eligible to avoid the minimums altogether when convicted on federal drug trafficking charges. So much for “first-time” offenders only.
  • As a means of better fostering reintegration, the bill mandates that the BOP place convicts in institutions within 500 miles of their homes. Once again, the bill makes no exceptions for violent drug traffickers or even murderers. Most gun and drug traffickers in federal prison, the biggest beneficiaries of this bill, are gang-bangers or criminal alien cartel leaders. Often, when the feds bust up a gang, they need to disperse the leaders, so that they are not together in the same institution or close to their base of operations. Yet this bill forces the transfer of existing gang members to new facilities in what is an unworkable security nightmare.

As you can see, there is nothing reform-minded in this bill. It is 100 percent focused on leniencies and casts a wide net rather than using a scalpel. The reason is because almost all the pseudo-conservative and libertarian promoters of this bill have fundamentally adopted the philosophy of Bernie Sanders and George Soros that there are too many people in prison and the system is racist:

I have previously thoroughly debunked that myth. In reality, there is an under-incarceration of truly violent criminals, and there is no racial disparity in those categories.

Ultimately, the question for supporters of Soros jailbreak is: Why are they not brave enough to stand on the truth of what is surreptitiously woven into the fabric of this bill? Why are they suddenly ashamed to admit their goal is to empty the prisons?

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