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Watch: Why the first step for the First Step Act should be jamming it into the shredder

Conservative Review

In the latest episode of CRTV's White House Brief, host and CRTV White House correspondent Jon Miller exposes provisions in the First Step Act prison reform bill that would give dangerous criminals an opportunity for early release from prison.

President Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail to be a"law and order" president, pledging to "get tough on the drug dealers who kill thousands of people and destroy so many people's lives." But Miller reports that the First Step Act, which the president supports, would offer early release credits to human smugglers, heroin and fentanyl drug traffickers, and individuals in federal prison for sex crimes.

The purpose of the legislation is to "provide for programs to help reduce the risk that prisoners will recidivate upon release from prison, and for other purposes."

Miller points out that the language is very broad, ensuring that "all prisoners at each risk level have a meaningful opportunity to reduce their classification ... all prisoners are able to successfully participate in such programs" (emphasis added).

"Now these programs that they're talking about are programs that would help convicts get 'credits' which basically just shorten their time in prison so that they can be set free into the wind faster," Miller says. Responding to those who would argue that the bill contains two pages of convicts who are ineligible for early release, Miller shows how the exceptions carved out for certain types of criminals miss many dangerous individuals.

Using information from the Department of Justice obtained by the office of Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., Miller reports that criminals convicted of the following crimes are eligible for the First Step Act's early release programs:

  1. Trafficking cocaine or methamphetamines, even if convicted as a kingpin (18 U.S.C § 841(b)
  2. Strangling a spouse or an intimate partner (18 U.S.C. §113(a)(8)
  3. Trafficking fentanyl, except in rare cases (18 U.S.C. § 841(b))
  4. Providing or possessing contraband, including firearms, in prison (18 U.S.C. § 1791)
  5. Felonies committed while in a criminal street gang (18 U.S.C. § 521)
  6. Escape of prisoners (18 U.S.C. § 751)
  7. Rioting in a correctional facility (18 U.S.C. § 1792)
  8. Importing aliens for prostitution (18 U.S.C. § 1328)
  9. Assault with intent to commit rape or sexual abuse (18 U.S.C. § 3559(c)(2)(F))
  10. Threatening to murder a congressman, senator, or government official (18 U.S.C. § 115(a)(1)
  11. Drug-related robberies involving assault with a dangerous weapon (18 U.S.C. § 2118(c)(1)
  12. Violent carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury (18 U.S.C. § 2119(2))
  13. Stealing immigration documents for the purpose of keeping an immigrant in slavery (18 U.S.C. § 1592)
  14. Attempt or conspiracy to engage in human smuggling (18 U.S.C. § 1592)
  15. Failing to register as a sex offender (18 U.S.C. § 2250)
  16. Arson (18 U.S.C. § 81)
  17. Blackmail (18 U.S.C. § 873)
  18. Domestic assault by an habitual offender (18 U.S.C. § 117)
  19. Hate crimes (18 U.S.C. § 249)
  20. Assaulting a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon (18 U.S.C. § 111(b))

The legislation states, "A prisoner shall earn 10 days of time credits for every 30 days of successful participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction programming or productive activities." Miller points out that the use of the word "or" permits prisoners to become eligible for early release based on "productive activities" alone. And according to the text, "The term ‘productive activity’ means either a group or individual activity that is designed to allow prisoners determined as having a minimum or low risk of recidivating to remain productive and thereby maintain a minimum or low risk of recidivating."

That is vague, and the legislation gives no specific examples as to what qualifies as a "productive activity."

As for the "evidence-based recidivism reduction programming," Miller shows how this is also a vague and ill-defined requirement.

"Now, this bill may be noble in its intentions — but you know, that’s what liberals do. They say, 'Pay no attention to the actual results of our actions; you must only pay attention to our compassionate intentions,'" Miller says.

"Whatever its intentions may be, this bill right now sucks. It's a disaster that needs to be fixed. There are plenty of ways to do that which will actually help alleviate some of the problems that we’re seeing, that people are legitimately complaining about with our justice system. For instance, instead of allowing every single prisoner a jailbreak opportunity, the bill should focus on restructuring the criminal code to fix the over-penalizing of people for things that we all agree are stupid and that no one should have to have their lives destroyed over."

"But the first step for this iteration of the bill should be jamming it, quite frankly, into the shredder."

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